Unlike many other authors, Russell Banks did not grow up writing. In fact, Banks said it wasn’t until after dropping out of school as a young adult that he even started reading seriously.
But after becoming enraptured by the works of Hemingway and Faulkner, he said he developed a desire to imitate the masters he’d grown to love. By 20, he said he realized his whole life revolved around his newfound passion.
“There wasn’t a moment where I decided I wanted to be a writer,” Banks said. “I realized I had already become a writer.”
Thus began the career of one of the most critically acclaimed contemporary American authors. Banks’ novels and short stories have been praised for their realism and insightfulness.
The fact that the epiphany that started it all occurred when he was college age makes Banks’ appearance at Seton Hall for the Poetry-in-the-Round reading series Oct. 24 all the more meaningful. Banks said he always enjoys doing public readings so he can see and hear how people respond to his work. But he said going to a university takes him back to when he was an aspiring writer.
“I remember when I was in college and being blown away by writers who I enjoyed,” Banks said. “It’s a pleasure to enter that world.”
At Seton Hall, Banks said he plans on reading material from his latest book, “A Permanent Member of the Family,” which is a collection of stories analyzing the idea of familial relations from different perspectives.
He said this anthology varies from his prior ones because he didn’t write each story in between novels; instead, he wrote them all at once, based on years-old notes he discovered. In general, Banks said crafting novels and stories are entirely contrasting experiences.
“A story is like a poem or a song,” Banks said. “It’s more musical. The writing is more lyrical.”
In both his novels and stories, Banks usually writes about the lives of working-class people. He said his interest in the underprivileged also comes from his desire to affect their lives.
“It comes out of my own sense of compassion,” Banks said. “I want to help those who don’t have power.”
For more information on Russell Banks’ Seton Hall engagement, visit shu.edu.
Sean Quinn can be reached at email@example.com.