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Lost Memory of Skinby Russell Banks
Synopses & Reviews
The acclaimed author of The Sweet Hereafter and Rule of the Bone returns with a provocative new novel that illuminates the shadowed edges of contemporary American culture with startling and unforgettable results
Suspended in a strangely modern-day version of limbo, the young man at the center of Russell Bankss uncompromising and morally complex new novel must create a life for himself in the wake of incarceration. Known in his new identity only as the Kid, and on probation after doing time for a liaison with an underage girl, he is shackled to a GPS monitoring device and forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, the Kid takes up residence under a south Florida causeway, in a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders.
Barely beyond childhood himself, the Kid, despite his crime, is in many ways an innocent, trapped by impulses and foolish choices he himself struggles to comprehend. Enter the Professor, a man who has built his own life on secrets and lies. A university sociologist of enormous size and intellect, he finds in the Kid the perfect subject for his research on homelessness and recidivism among convicted sex offenders. The two men forge a tentative partnership, the Kid remaining wary of the Professors motives even as he accepts the counsel and financial assistance of the older man.
When the camp beneath the causeway is raided by the police, and later, when a hurricane all but destroys the settlement, the Professor tries to help the Kid in practical matters while trying to teach his young charge new ways of looking at, and understanding, what he has done. But when the Professors past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two mens relationship shifts.
Suddenly, the Kid must reconsider everything he has come to believe, and choose what course of action to take when faced with a new kind of moral decision.
Long one of our most acute and insightful novelists, Russell Banks often examines the indistinct boundaries between our intentions and actions. A mature and masterful work of contemporary fiction from one of our most accomplished storytellers, Lost Memory of Skin unfolds in language both powerful and beautifully lyrical, show-casing Banks at his most compelling, his reckless sense of humor and intense empathy at full bore.
The perfect convergence of writer and subject, Lost Memory of Skin probes the zeitgeist of a troubled society where zero tolerance has erased any hope of subtlety and compassion—a society where isolating the offender has perhaps created a new kind of victim.
"For his latest novel, the acclaimed author of Cloudsplitter and The Sweet Hereafter again takes inspiration from a sanctuary of sorts. 'The Kid,' a young sex offender, lives with other registered offenders (including a disgraced state senator) in a makeshift camp beneath a Florida causeway based on a real colony that was shut down in 2010. After a police raid, the Kid meets 'the Professor,' a pompous, rotund man claiming to be researching homelessness. He wants to study — and cure — the Kid in order to prove his theories about society. But just as the study commences, the Professor, claiming that his life is in danger because of past work as a government spy, turns the tables, paying the Kid to interview him instead. Bloated and remarkably repetitive, this is more a collection of ideas and emblems than a novel. Though the Kid remains mostly opaque, he's a sympathetic character, but the nature of his crime, once revealed, lets Banks off the hook and simplifies rather than complicates matters. Banks continually refers to the Professor's weight and mental superiority, the latter a contrivance allowing for long rhetorical passages into the nature of man, sexual obsession, pornography, truth, and commerce that come as no surprise. Most frustrating is Banks's almost pathological restating of his characters' traits and motives, resulting in a highly frustrating novel in desperate need of an editor. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Like our living literary giants Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon, Russell Banks is a great writer wrestling with the hidden secrets and explosive realities of this country.”
“Of the many writers working in the great tradition today, one of the best is Russell Banks.”
Lost Memory of Skin is a provocative novel of spiritual and moral redemption from Russell Banks, the author of Affliction, Rule of the Bone, Continental Drift, Cloudsplitter, and other acclaimed masterworks of contemporary American fiction. Uncompromising and complex, Lost Memory of Skin is the story of The Kid, a young sex offender recently released from prison and forced to live beneath a South Florida causeway. When The Professor, a man of enormous intellect and appetite, takes The Kid under his wing, his own startling past will cause upheavals in both of their worlds. At once lyrical, witty, and disturbing, Bankss extraordinary novel showcases his abilities as a world-class storyteller as well as his incisive understanding of the dangerous contradictions and hypocrisies of modern American society.
About the Author
Russell Banks is the former president of Cities of Refuge North America, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. Banks lives in upstate New York, and he was the New York State author from 20042008.
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