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On Contact: ‘Foregone’ – the power of fiction

Russell Banks in books such as ‘Continental Drift’, ‘Affliction’ and ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ has long chronicled the struggles and inner torment that come with being a member of our dispossessed working class. In his new novel, ‘Foregone’, he turns his lens on the inner life of artists, in this case a well-known documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife. Fife, who fled to Canada, supposedly to avoid the draft, is dying from the ravages of cancer. He is confined to a wheelchair, wracked by pain, pumped full of medications, and unable to eat solid food. His final desire, in front of a camera, is to expose to his wife of 40 years the lies and myths that he has spun to create a fictional persona, perhaps a curse of all who become public figures. He confesses in his final hours to two previously failed marriages and two children he left behind before fleeing to Canada, not to avoid the draft but to escape the emptiness and purposelessness of his existence. The novel explores the tricks of memory, the way proximity to wealth suffocates and corrupts us, the mutations of self that estrange us from those we once knew and loved, the deep fear we all have of being unloved, and the heady idealism that is at once the charm and curse of youth.

Russell Banks’s new book is ‘Foregone’.