We speak with acclaimed novelist Russell Banks, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist known for drawing on his working-class background to write about criminals, outcasts and revolutionaries. "I know that as a kid in a broken home that was marred by alcoholism and violence and so forth, storytelling was a way, just within the circle of the family, for me and my brothers and so on, and for myself, to save ourselves. We could make sense of an otherwise incoherent life for children." Banks has written a dozen novels and several short story collections. In "Cloudsplitter," he focused on the revolutionary abolitionist John Brown; in "Affliction," a paranoid alcoholic; and in "Rule of the Bone," a 14-year-old drug dealer. Bank’s latest book, "Lost Memory of Skin," explores the plight of sex offenders trying to live among society as outcasts.
Thirty-five years ago, California prisoners founded Black August, a holiday to pay tribute to African-American history in the context of an ever-expanding carceral state.
His remarks to the Koch conference were about campaign finance, which he regards as a free speech issue.