The Angel on the Roof
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The Angel on the Roof

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  608 ratings  ·  50 reviews
With The Angel on the Roof, Russell Banks offers readers an astonishing collection of thirty years of his short fiction, revised especially for this volume and highlighted by the inclusion of nine new stories that are among the finest he has ever written. As is characteristic of all of Bank's works, these stories resonate with irony and compassion, honesty and insight, ext...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 24th 2001 by Harper Perennial (first published January 4th 1999)
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Shane
I picked up this collection never intending to finish it – nearly 500 pages, of short stories! But I did, trapped as I was in the middle of the ice storm, and was glad for the experience.

I was reminded of Raymond Carver and John Steinbeck when reading these stories, many of which are located in a town called Catamount, New Hampshire. The characters are mostly blue collar workers, often plumbers, leading hard scrabble lives, hanging at the edges of penury. They are scarred individuals, prone to a...more
Lylah
Russell Banks is not for everyone. His writing has been described as "harsh" and most people who prefer either light reading or fantasy hate his work (and in my experience Banks seems to provoke love or hate responses). You have to appreciate gritty realism, methodical character and plot development, and preferably have a familiarity with northern New England and upstate New York, to appreciate his stories. With that stated upfront, he is a very talented writer with a deep understanding of human...more
Ted Burke
If there was a sense of humor, or even hope in Russell Banks' life, it must have been beaten out of him a long time ago, if these tales are any indication. There is a perverse yearning glamor to be found in these stories about the hard, bitter truths the characters find, or don't, almost as if the hopelessness is something to be envied. Cheever, it can be said, is often times dour and melancholic, but at least lightens the load with transcendent prose , and a dark wit. Banks lacks even that, and...more
Federico
Il perché di questo libro: perché dal mio punto di vista Russell Banks è un autore da leggere. Perché sono incappato in Russell Banks poco meno di venti anni fa, ed è diventato presto uno degli scrittori di cui leggere tutto, anche la lista della spesa.
Banks, a pensarci bene, si inserisce in quella fascia di età in cui tutto (la musica ascoltata, i libri letti, le esperienze vissute) è stato così intenso da diventare parte di me, interiorizzata.

L'angelo sul tetto è una raccolta di racconti brevi...more
Laura
Jun 13, 2007 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: short story aficionados
I'm really writing this review just about the story "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story" which is part of this collection. This is probably one of the most interesting, provocative, and (enjoyably) cringe-worthy short stories I've ever read. Definitely one of my all time favorites.

The story features a narrator who is in his late twenties and just coming out of a divorce, which has naturally provoked a certain identity crisis. Through a series of chance encounters, he becomes involved with a woman...more
Joseph
Russell Banks continues to be an author who makes me regret not having found him earlier in my life. On the other hand, I wonder if I would have been able to truly appreciate him before now, or if his particular blend of melancholy and regret are only suited to the man I've become.

This is a great collection of short stories, and it was especially exciting to see his occasional jumps outside the comfort zone of rural New Hampshire. Still, my favorites from the collection are probably "The Fisherm...more
Krenner1
I have enjoyed Russell Banks' novels but they have left me just short of high praise. Good writing but just lacking, for me, a story stamina. So was I ever thrilled to pick up his book of short stories. In my opinion THIS is his genre, where he captures a snippet of a life or thought and intensifies it without the frustration of building a story for commercial reading/success. These are wonderful.
Matthew
Russell Banks. I am incapable of doing an honest review about Banks' work because I will only say good things. Because that's all there is.

Banks tells stories of everyday life that permeate and disappear into the mundane backdrop of normalcy. Nobody really cares about these people. Except us, those that are those people. Meaning: everyone. But most people just don't care about stories like this. Most people want to read over-the-top action, fictional retellings of history, or tales of magic and...more
Matt Simmons
While Banks is an excellent writer generally, this collection is uneven and plods along in places. This is perhaps due to it being a retrospective collection, and this retrospective reveals Banks as a craftsman who often tried various techniques to varying successes. On the one hand, some of these stories show Banks as having mastered the Eudora Welty notion of specificity and place in fiction--the stories of rural New England and upstate New York are masterful evocations of a once-prosperous an...more
Mmars
I often have difficulty reading a collection of short stories from beginning to end, but "Angel on the Roof" held me from the whole way through. There were a couple less impressive stories (thankfully they were all short) but some of these will hold me for some time. The squallor of the Guinea Pig Lady, the moral of the Fisherman, the heart-wrenching decision in the Burden, etc. Many of these stories revolve around decisions and their consequences - most often through the elusive nature of male...more
Frank
I read about half the stories in this collection. They cover some of the same ground as the stories of Raymond Carver and Andre Dubus--hardscrabble, working class lives, ordinary people making mistakes and living with their consequences. Yet Banks's stories don't have the moral complexity of Carver's or the compelling density of Dubus's. In his note at the end of the book, Banks comments on the difference between novels and short stories: "The novel ... accrues, accretes, and accumulates itself...more
Sharon Styer
Russell Banks is an elegant, truthful writer. Have you wondered what life was like in a trailer park on a lake in Canada. Probably not. This is where Banks grew up. These short stories take a life from different trailers, from different generations weaving another story as a shadow background until I found I understood the lives in this park. It's a world view you could build a philosophy upon.
I would read every Banks book. But, his subjects can be too difficult for me to want to spend detailed...more
Jim
Aug 09, 2011 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Short story readers, ann beattie readers, and raymornd carver readers
Russell Banks is a grand storyteller. A few of my favorites are: Sarah Cole is my favorite of his short stories, i'd reread this and it was still powerful story about a conceited man and his retelling of a brief relationship. Djinn was a riveting sociological and psychological story for any world traveler, it touches on internal strife, fears, and politics. The Fisherman, it's almost a Hemmingway feel with a Shirley Jackson "Lottery" short-story feeling to it. While Russell has quite a mix of ag...more
Austen to Zafón
Banks is a gritty, detailed, evocative writer and I'd give this short story collection four stars, but boy it was depressing.
Chad
Not all the stories are amazing, but the four stars (I only reserve 5 for those rare classic stand the test of all time reads) are alone for all the stories collected from an earlier book, Trailerpark. That book, from its collection of stories assembled here, reads like a slightly more depressing Cannery Row - which to me, is fantastic. Banks' short stories have a Hemmingway influence but also Carver and Cheever too. Anyway, he is certainly on of the better short story writers I have read and I...more
Brad
I first heard about Russell Banks about a year ago when he read a story from this collection called "The Moor" on NPR's This American Life. Initially I wanted to read this book of short stories, but fell into reading a few of his novels first. Given that this book spans Banks' entire career, there's a range of stories here. Some are absolutely brilliant, and some fall short. A few of my favorites were The Fisherman, The Burden, Success Story, The Moor, The Guinea Pig Lady, Queen for a Day, and D...more
Jason
There was a bit I liked: the links between all of the "trailer park" stories; some of the narrative weight a few of the stories had; and some deft prose here and there. But overall, I was unimpressed. In the concluding notes, Banks says that is clear to him how much he's grown as an author. And it's true — the earlier stories read like rough drafts, and more often than not make me feel like I'd be better off just job-shadowing caustic drunks and dead-beat dads for a day instead of reading flat p...more
Joanne
I had this book sitting on my to read shelf for ages because I'm not always in the mood for short stories. I hadn't read any Russell Banks in ages and although some of the stories weren't so great (but they were taken from his whole writing career so some were written when he was quite young) on the whole it was really good. There was a lot of interweaving between the stories which made it feel like a big novel sometimes as the same characters popped up throughout.
Tuck
most all these short stories deal with the question of character, that is what sort of character does one poseess to cheat on their wife? or disown their son? or steal from an aquiantance? or destroy all your money rather than "give it to a good cause"? makes you think. this author has a new collection of stories out in 2010, i think. great great writer.
Bryan
'It's hard to know more about a person's life than what that person wants you to know, and few people know even that much. Beyond what you can see and are told (both of which are controlled pretty easily by the person seen and told about), what you come to believe is true of who a person is, was, and will be, comes straight from your imaginings.' (pp. 81)
Denny
great short stories. the last about the daughter was great. also the one about the father spending time with his boys. he is a divorced father and in the morning he gets in his car and breaks down because the frost on the window is from his sons, who lives with his wife and new husband. most are excellent.
Andy
Incredible writing although I read this book immediately following a Russell Banks novel (Lost Memory of Skin) and the dreary subject matter started wearing on me. This collection spans his entire career (at least through 2000) so if you've never read anything by him, this is a good place to start.
Becky Yamarik
wonderful stories about rural poverty in NH and NY. Many of the stories discuss the same characters and you get different perspectives. The one about animal hoarding, The Guinea Pig Lady, really made me understand why people fall into that. . . a terrific read.
Rich
"The light filtered through the ice is still, hard, and cold, like an algebraic equation, and you can watch the world pass through it with clarity, objectivity, and love that is usually thought to be the exclusive prerogative of gods." - The Fisherman, page 45
Jessica
all different kinds of short stories-- sometimes seems like they must be by different authors. I liked the first one the best, and I liked the trailer park series too. I don't know anything about trailer parks, but I like the character descriptions.
Wendy
I'm not a fan of short stories, and this is a massive collection. The writing is beautiful, even if the stories are rather dark.
Wendy
Aug 07, 2009 Wendy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Wendy by: heard the story I mentioned read on NPR
What is, perhaps, my favorite short story is in this book: "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story." It's a great story to read aloud. Not all the stories in this collection are of this caliber, but most are well worth reading.
Thomas Thonson
I have been reading these to my bed ridden mother and who is in a nursing home and having some dementia. She listens and responds to the stories. It has been a helpful way to spend time with her. And I've enjoyed the stories.
Mary Newcomb
This collection of short stories is breathtaking. Some of the stories are related, some are not. All have well developed characters and interesting plots, often with unexpected endings.
Lily
There's no question Banks is a talented writer, but his stories are beyond bleak, in a way that makes Carver look downright optimistic. They were a bit too painful for me to enjoy reading.
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Russell Banks is a member 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 international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit...more
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“When you have never done a thing before and that thing is not simply and clearly right or wrong, you frequently do not know if it is a cruel thing, you just go ahead and do it. Maybe later you'll be able to determine whether you acted cruelly. Too late, of course, but at least you'll know.” 3 likes
“One of the most difficult things to say to another person is, I hope that you will love me for no good reason. But it is what we all want and rarely dare to say to one another – to our children, to our parents and mates, to our friends, and to strangers. Especially to strangers, who have neither good nor bad reasons to love us. And it’s why we tell each other stories that we pray will be transformed in the telling by that angel on the roof, made believable and about us all, no matter who we are to one another and who we are not.” 2 likes
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