NEW YORK (AP) — Russell Banks, an award-winning fiction writer who rooted such novels as “Affliction” and “The Sweet Hereafter” in the wintry, rural communities of his native Northeast and imagined the dreams and downfalls of everyone from modern blue-collar workers to the radical abolitionist John Brown, has died. He was 82.
Banks, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, died Saturday in upstate New York, his editor, Dan Halpern, told The Associated Press. Banks was being treated for cancer, Halpern said.
Born in Newton, Massachusetts, and raised in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Banks was a self-styled heir to such 19th century writers as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman, aspiring to high art and a deep grasp of the country’s spirit. He was a plumber’s son who wrote often about working class families and those who died trying to break out.
Banks lived part of the year in Florida, and for a time had a home in Jamaica, but he was essentially a man of the North, with an old Puritan’s sense of consequences. Snow fell often in his fiction, whether on the upstate New York community torn by a bus crash in “The Sweet Hereafter” or on the desperate, divorced New Hampshire policeman undone by his paranoid fantasies in “Affliction.”
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