Foregone: Book summary and reviews of Foregone by Russell Banks

Foregone by Russell Banks X
Foregone by Russell Banks
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2021
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A searing novel about memory, abandonment, and betrayal from the acclaimed and bestselling Russell Banks.

At the center of Foregone is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Fife, now in his late seventies, is dying of cancer in Montreal and has agreed to a final interview in which he is determined to bare all his secrets at last, to demythologize his mythologized life. The interview is filmed by his acolyte and ex–star student, Malcolm MacLeod, in the presence of Fife's wife and alongside Malcolm's producer, cinematographer, and sound technician, all of whom have long admired Fife but who must now absorb the meaning of his astonishing, dark confession.

Imaginatively structured around Fife's secret memories and alternating between the experiences of the characters who are filming his confession, the novel challenges our assumptions and understanding about a significant lost chapter in American history and the nature of memory itself. Russell Banks gives us a daring and resonant work about the scope of one man's mysterious life, revealed through the fragments of his recovered past.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A man nearing death tries to tell his wife certain things about himself in this dark, affecting work...A challenging, risk-taking work marked by a wry and compassionate intelligence." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Banks...is at his most magnetic and provocative in this portrait of a celebrated documentary filmmaker on the brink of death...In this masterful depiction of a psyche under siege by disease, age, and guilt, Banks considers with profound intent the verity of memory, the mercurial nature of the self, and how little we actually know about ourselves and others...[For] all lovers of richly psychological and ethical fiction." - Booklist (starred review)

"[S]inuous if uneven... Fife's reminiscences are generally vivid, though the spell is dissipated by the weaker scenes in which, for instance, Emma repeatedly objects to proceeding with the interview and the sycophantic Malcolm reiterates the novel's themes in windy proclamations. Still, Banks keeps the audience rapt." - Publishers Weekly

"Russell Banks, as cinematographer, is known to move in close. Foregone focuses his sharp eye on the feints and fictions amid life's 'facts,' as he reveals his fascinatingly fallible character, Fife, whose personal life has been contextualized by history. As we zig-zag through the character's past and present, it becomes apparent that the writer is simultaneously, and subtly, demonstrating the act of writing fiction. Fife is aptly named; he's an instrument piercing the soundtrack we call life, as the drummer marches on." - Ann Beattie

"Russell Banks is, word for word, idea for idea, one of the great American novelists. Foregone is a book about not coming to a conclusion. Banks presents us with a series of mirrors, some of them broken, some of them intact, and all of them wildly reflective of our times. It is a book about the shifting shapes of memory and the chimerical nature of our lives." - Colum McCann

"Foregone is a subtle meditation on a life composed of half-forgotten impulses and their endless consequences, misapprehensions of others that are accepted and exploited almost passively, a minor heroism that is only enhanced by demurral. In the rages of a sick old man profound questions arise—what is a life? A self? And what is lost when truth destroys the fabrications that sustain other lives?" - Marilynne Robinson

This information about Foregone shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Russell Banks Author Biography

Photo: Robert Sargent Fay

Russell Banks was raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class environment, which has played a major role in his writing.

Mr. Banks (who was the first in his family to go to college) attended Colgate University for less than a semester, and later graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before he could support himself as a writer, he tried his hand at plumbing and as a shoe salesman and window trimmer. More recently, he has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence, University of New Hampshire, New England College, New York University, and Princeton University.

A prolific writer of fiction, his titles include Searching for ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview

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