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Russell Banks (The Sweet Hereafter, Affliction) started out as a poet, and nowhere is this more evident than in his 37 years' worth of exquisite short stories, collected here in one hefty volume for the first time. In a mournfully lyrical phrase, he can evoke his characteristic landscape, the icy northeastern U.S.: "The air was crystalline, almost absent. The fields lay like aged plates of bone--dry, scoured by the cold until barren of possibility, incapable even of decomposition." Though his stories venture to Jamaica and Africa, Banks keeps coming back to New Hampshire and the themes of divorce, poverty, violence, and what he calls "the old father-and-son thing." He's not slumming in his trailer-park tales: his own drunken prole father beat him brutally, and Banks knows how grief and guilt shatter and unite families and small towns.
Characters often crop up in more than one story, giving the setting novelistic depth, drawing us into each life. In "Queen for a Day," we meet the young children of the Painter clan of New Hampshire as their dad is abandoning their mom, who then loses her job. "They run to her and wrap her in their arms... the three of them wind around each other like snakes moving in and out of one another's coils." In "Firewood," Painter's grown children rebuff his offer of fuel for their hearth, repaying his indifference, and Banks gives us a bad-guy's-eye view of their shared loneliness. In "The Fisherman," a $50,000 lottery is won by an old ice fisherman who stashes it in a cigar box, eliciting character-revealing reactions from the trailer-park denizens. "Dis Bwoy, Him Gwan" further reveals why the local pothead Bruce Severance so urgently needs the fisherman's money. The stories resonate and illuminate each other, the dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the collection has the cohesiveness of a 500-page novel. Banks's prose has the stark grace of classical tragedy. He's a poet after all. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Two-thirds of the 32 stories in this magnificent collection have appeared before, in the four volumes of short fiction Banks has published over the past 25 years; all, including nine new ones, were chosen by the author as representative of work that "did not on rereading make me cringe." Banks is a born short story writer and confesses he loves the form; in many of the entries here, the impact is all the more powerful for the intense concentration he brings to bear on the desperate lives he so often chooses to chronicle. The best of these tales, many of them set in the sad New Hampshire trailer park that was the basis for an entire collection of linked tales, tell of the anguish of parents and children moving apart, of husbands and wives and lovers facing the grim certainty that nothing in their relationships is going to change or improve. "The Burden," about a man's despairing break with his no-good son; "Quality Time," about a daughter realizing she has finally moved away from her father; "Firewood," about a couple trapped by ruined expectations; and "Queen for a Day," about a small boy's efforts to cheer up his failing mother, are almost unbearably poignant, unflinching glimpses into the dark recesses of life, illuminated by Banks's unfailing compassion and steady eye and ear. These stories, like his wintry northern landscapes, are deeply lived in. Yet Banks can be equally evocative of exotic corners of the world, as in "Djinn" and "The Fish," mysterious fables set in Africa and India. Only in such flights as "Indisposed," an imagining of William Hogarth's wife, or "With Che in New Hampshire," in which he mixes myth and actuality, does Banks seem on more tentative ground. But most of the stories strike home swiftly and surely, reminding a reader again and again of the amplitude of the form in the hands of a master. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This collection of short stories spans most of the career of Russell Banks, and shows him to be one of the masters of the short story form. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Brian Lewis
Was interesting in reading Russell Banks books after I read Jamaica, very negative outlook, disappointed he is such a depressive writer, expected better.Published on April 11, 2013 by suestein
I started reading The Angel On The Roof: The Stories Of Russell Banks, his de facto Collected Stories- thirty-one of them, twenty-two old tales and nine new ones, right after I had... Read morePublished on September 28, 2008 by Cosmoetica
I had not heard of Russell Banks until i heard the man himself read his story THE MOOR on NPR. That hooked me, there's something for everyone here.Published on January 1, 2006 by Chad Scheid
I'm not much of a reader, but after someone read me one of the short stories in this book, I had to get it. It's great. Read morePublished on March 15, 2003 by Sam Wilkinson
This guy is great. His writing is so spare, so tender and so beautiful it's almost too good! This does mean the book lasts longer than most as you have to keep setting it down to... Read morePublished on May 12, 2002
Russell Banks' short stories (as well as his novels) have a vivacity created at least in part by his willingness and ability to shift his mindset in a way that can only be... Read morePublished on November 22, 2000
The people and situations in Russell Banks's short stories, here collected from those written throughout his 37 years of writing, generally have two things in common: stark... Read morePublished on August 19, 2000 by J Scott Morrison