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Russell Banks

Russell Banks talks about the relationship between authors and Hollywood, including the adaptation of his own novels for the screen.

In this episode of The Archive Project, we feature a talk by Russell Banks from 1999. Banks is the author of over twenty books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. He first came to national attention with the novels The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction, both of which were made into feature films in the late 1990s.

In this talk, Banks talks about the uneasy and sometimes downright hostile history between authors and Hollywood, with some hilarious anecdotes. And while this tension continues today, there’s also another fascinating contemporary resonance in his talk. At the time, the digital transition in filmmaking was dramatically lowering the cost of production, allowing serious films to be made from literary fiction and nonfiction. A blossoming of these so-called indie films resulted in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, another revolution has taken hold: streaming.  And it, too, has brought us another wave of incredible novelistic narratives on the screen, but this time on what we traditionally have called television.

“Writing and reading literary fiction and poetry are activities almost too intimate to talk about. Literature is intimate behavior between strangers.”


Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

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