Stephen Durrant's Reviews > Lost Memory of Skin

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
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Nov 06, 2011

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Read in November, 2011

Banks is not a great writer, at least in this reader's opinion. His dialogue is often wooden and not very believable, to note one weakness. He is, however, big-hearted and takes on important subjects. His latest book is a good example. The main character, known simply as "the Kid," is a convicted sex felon, which of course means that he is ostracized from mainstream society and lives as an outcast in a community of felons like him. The Kid's experience has given him one guiding belief: nobody is what he seems to be. This principle is put to the test when he meets an obese professor who has come to "the causeway," where the Kid lives with other convicted sex offenders, to study these marginalized men and figure out a way for them to rebuild some sense of self-worth. Maybe. The professor becomes the mystery at the heart of this novel about which I can say nothing more without a spoiler alert. I read this novel because I saw an interview with Banks and was impressed by his sensitivity and social consciousness. In this novel he writes about that group of people we all like to scorn and yet manages to give them human texture. There is something oh-so-nineteenth-century about a writer with social consciousness who is trying to expand our realm of understanding and, yes, empathy. A bleeding heart? Maybe. That's surely better than a hard heart.
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