UNC graduate Russell Banks is among the most evocative and important modern American writers. He's also one of the most depressing. If you can get through one of his books or the film adaptations without wanting to kill yourself, you're a better man than I, Gunga Din. Banks excels at showing the darker side of human nature, whether it's the school bus full of drowned children in The Sweet Hereafter (not to mention the incest and drug addiction), the generations of alcoholism and abuse in Affliction (the film version of which I was foolish enough to go see with my dad ... on Father's Day), the brutal racism and dehumanization of the slavery era in Cloudsplitter or even the alienated community of sex offenders in his latest novel, Lost Memory of Skin. He'll read at Quail Ridge from his new collection of short stories, A Permanent Member of the Family.
. —Zack Smith