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The Angel on the Roof: The Stories of Russell Banks Paperback – Apr 2001

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Some years ago, before I married and took a position with a company whose entire operation was domestic-before I came home, as it were-I was employed by a Hopewell, New Jersey, company owned by a multinational consortium based in Amsterdam. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 15 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A Memorable Collection 12 Mar 2001
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Russell Banks knows how to tell a story. He can vary his technique from intimate to grand scale and can interchange voices so you're never sure whether he is writing autobiography or pure fiction. In ANGEL ON THE ROOF he gives us stories that span a long period of his output and while each of the stories stands on its own (at times even in a short 5 or 6 pages)there is enough linkage or afterthoughts that somehow tie this collection together. Yes, the stories are intensely interesting individually and do continue to show Banks' feelings about the alienation and abuse of parent-child relationships, and people in general, and yes they can be read individually as a bedside book for finding somnolence. But to stop reading these collected stories as a book would rob the reader of the tangents that make for enhancing the experince as a novel. For sheer clarity of line, pungent descriptions of the quality of air/space/cold/skies etc Banks is as good as contemporary writers get. This is a richly rewarding book on so many levels that it clearly belongs in every library...with frequent easy access!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The heir to Raymond Carver 4 Jun 2001
By Federico (Fred) Moramarco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Russell Banks is known primarily as a novelist, but his collected short stories show him to be a master of the shorter form as well. Some of these stories--like "Success Story" and "Fisherman" are masterpieces--the latter having affinities with Mark Twain's "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." Banks is at his best when he writes about New England working class people who live in trailer parks, drink lots of booze, and whose lives are bounded and limited by solitude and lonliness. This collection follows in the realistic tradition of Ray Carver's "Where I'm Calling From." Both writers present us with a disctinctly male view of the world, and they have great feeling and empathy for their characters.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Banks Never Disappoints 28 Jun 2000
By Thomas Bronchetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had never heard of Russel Banks until I picked up a copy of The Sweet Hearafter. Being from a small town in Northern, New York I immediately identified with the characters and the feeling that Banks is able to bring forth in his writing of small town life in depressed areas. I proceeded to read everthing he has ever written. I found myself learning something new in each of the books and invigorated by the diversity in his writing. Banks does not deliver in each of his short stories in this collection but who ever does. Many such as Plains of Abraham, Firewood, The Burden are touching, real, thoughful and to me anything but depressing. The relationship between father and son that Banks explores in many of the short stories I felt hit the mark. Banks short stories at their best make me more aware of myself and where I am from. I'm grateful Banks is doing what he is doing. This collection of short stories are reminders for me of what I left behind as well as what may lie ahead.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Spotlight on a short-story master 14 Jun 2000
By Ron Franscell, Author of 'The Darkest Night' - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Russell Banks isn't a household name in American letters, and what fame he's scratched together as an author has come from powerful novels such as "Affliction" and "Cloudsplitter." But, like Hemingway, Banks is best (and feels most free) when he writes short, and a new compilation might finally give him his due as a short-story writer.
"Angel on the Roof" is a literary album of Banks's greatest hits, 31 examples of what he calls "the best work I have done in the form over the thirty-seven years since I began trying to write." Twenty-two of the stories first appeared in four lesser-known collections between 1975 and 1986; of the nine more recent stories, six have only been published in magazines such as Esquire and newspaper literary supplements. More importantly, Banks has freely revised many of the old stories, so even his most ardent fans can expect to see something new.
His stories are elegantly postmodern, beautiful and striking, full of diverse voices and disquietingly vulgar settings. Some are only a few pages long; others go deeper and longer. But many of his stories, though sometimes suffocatingly bleak, are also capable of poignant humor and broad satire.
Perhaps the renaissance of the short story that finally elevates Banks to his proper place among American writers. He ranks with John Cheever as one of the masters of the contemporary form, if not in name-recognition.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Lacks the strength of his longer work 1 Dec 2000
By Christopher A. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Some of the stories in Angel on the Roof are clever snapshots and therefore compelling. All all are thoughtful and well written. However, this book failed to engross me like Banks' other works.
As a fan of Banks' novels, this book to me was interesting and useful as an insight into his writing. The reader will find characters and situations that pop up in Banks' longer fiction. Another interesting element is that some of the characters pop up in multiple stories - sometimes as principles and sometimes as background figures. This gives the book an interesting sense of continuity.
However, Banks' prose is much more effective in the form of a novel, in which he has a bit more space to develop the characters. Banks in my opinion is the very opposite of Hemingway, who's short work was lauded but has been criticized for unfocused novels. Banks' novels never ramble, not even the 700+ page novel Cloudsplitter - but his short stories, while interesting, are definitely weaker than his longer works. Don't expect to find any memorable gems here; none of the stories made an impression on me. I'll go to my grave remembering Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" but I've already forgotten almost all of the stories in Angel on the Roof.
Granted, Hemingway is a tough measuring stick, but Banks as one of the finest American authors merits tough comparisons.
Well written but forgettable. However, true Banks fans will find Angel on the Roof worth the read simply for an insight into the author.
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