Lost Memory of Skin

Lost Memory of Skin

by Russell Banks


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061857638
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/27/2011
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Russell Banks, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, is one of America’s most prestigious fiction writers, a past president of the International Parliament of Writers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Common Wealth Award for Literature. He lives in upstate New York and Miami, Florida.

Date of Birth:

March 28, 1940

Place of Birth:

Newton, Massachusetts

What People are Saying About This

Michael Ondaatje

“Russell Banks’s work presents without falsehood and with tough affection the uncompromising moral voice of our time... I trust his portraits of America more than any other—the burden of it, the need for it, the hell of it.”

Cornel West

“Like our living literary giants Toni Morrison and Thomas Pynchon, Russell Banks is a great writer wrestling with the hidden secrets and explosive realities of this country.”

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Lost Memory of Skin 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
‘Lost Memory’ Is a Social Commentary on Sex Offenders and Homelessness Reading about homeless people is tough. Reading about sex offenders is even tougher. Reading about homeless, sex offenders can be downright difficult, which is what The Lost Memory of Skin by award-winning Russell Banks is all about. What’s interesting is that Banks manages to write about this difficult combination without making the reader squirm too much. Rather than being about sex offenses, it’s about people who live on the fringes of society and, in this case, they just happen to be in the national registry. Set in the Florida panhandle, the book follows two main characters, The Kid and The Professor. The Kid is 21 and a convicted sex offender living under an overpass with other convicted offenders. It’s one of two places in town that is the mandatory distance away from a school or public park and the group of men form, if not a friendship, then a cooperation of sorts based on their mutual exclusion from society. Life is fairly predictable until The Professor shows up wanting to interview The Kid about his day-to-day life. The Professor has a keen interest in the link between sex crimes and homelessness and The Kid spends a lot of time wondering what The Professor’s end game is. There were times when I was reading this book that I wasn’t sure whether I was enjoying it or not. It’s hard for me to read a book where I feel empathy for a character that I should probably hate. It was even harder because I had no idea what The Kid had done until much later in the book, so I had a lot of anxiety about what was to come. But when it was all said and done, the fact that I had an emotional reaction (good or bad) is an indication that it was worth the read. Now that I’ve had some time to look back and reflect, I have to admit that Banks‘ way of writing is rather brilliant. If someone had told me that the book was made up of characters with generic names I would have thought it was a cop-out and a way to avoid full character development. But Banks actually manages to develop the characters even more in-depth because of their generic identities. It allows the reader to focus on the issues that the characters face more fully than if they had actual names. Because ultimately, this isn’t a book about characters, it’s a social commentary. It’s about how one mistake can ruin someone’s life. It’s about how being cast out from society with nowhere to go results in a snowball effect. It’s about how being required to live a certain distance away from a school or a park can be pretty problematic when there isn’t any housing that meets the qualifications. It’s about how a community more or less forces homelessness and then tries to address its homelessness problem. So if you’re looking for a happy-go-lucky story, this is definitely not the book for you. But if you’re even slightly interested in reading The Lost Memory of Skin, then I highly recommend it. Along with all of the social commentary, there are some pretty great plot twists. Plus, it has an ending not unlike The Life of Pi in that it will leave you questioning everything. It can be slow-going and I didn’t love it while I was reading it, but looking back I find that I enjoyed it much more than I had originally thought.
GinaLeeSlusher-BookLover More than 1 year ago
Great story - dark and thought-provoking. At times it was very slow. I came to care about a character who, in real life, would never get a chance. The author did a great job of setting up the characters' personalities, investing me in each one.
Hagelstein on LibraryThing 6 months ago
In the fictional city of Calusa (a stand-in for Miami) sex offenders make an encampment under a causeway. It¿s the only place in the city where they can live the required 2500 ft. away from schools, daycare centers, anywhere children congregate. They are ¿pariahs of the most extreme sort, American untouchables¿ and ¿simply wished out of existence.¿The Kid is one of them. A twenty-two year old virgin and porn addict who got caught in an online sting. A sociology professor befriends him in an attempt to improve the lives of the offenders. But the professor has his own deep secrets.In Lost Memory of Skin Russell Banks manages to tie together the current offenders with former shady government operatives and also offers an indictment of the manner the justice system deals with the untouchables.
BillPilgrim on LibraryThing 6 months ago
The main character is a 22 year old man who is living under the causeway connecting the fictional city of Calusa with barrier islands. He lives there with a group of other convicted sex offenders who are prohibited from living within 2500 feet of any place where children could congregate. The rule makes this underpass one of only three locations in the county where they can legally stay, the other two are at the airport and in a swamp. But it is hardly legal under the highway ¿ early in the book the police arrive in the dark to clear them out, due to health code violations.After the police raid, the Professor enters the story, who says he wants to study the situation of homeless sex offenders. He takes the Kid under his wing, and tried to help him survive. He says he wants to try to rehabilitate the Kids. But, the professor has his own secrets.The book is primarily focused on what is real, what is the truth. People lie about themselves, about their past, all the time. For other people, it is often impossible to know what is true.
YogiABB on LibraryThing 6 months ago
I just finished this book. It is awesome. It is about a young registered sex offender in Florida who due to the Florida residency laws can live in only one place in his county, underneath a causeway. He wears a gps ankle bracelet that lets his parole officer know instantly if he strays into a forbidden zone.Also, thanks to an internet based sex offender registry, given his name anybody can get on the internet and find out his histroy. So for 10 years he is doomed to homelessness and despair and he never actually assaulted anyone. He was lured into what he thought was a liaison with a 14 year old but the girl's father met him at the door. Lucky for the daughter.The whole thing about sex offenders' residency laws has intrigued me. Sex offenders don't have any advocates so they are free game for any politician looking for a few cheap votes to make it harder to find a place to live. It has gotten to the point where some of the offenders have stopped registering their addresses and go underground which makes it harder to authorities to monitor them.This book about more than sex offenders though. It is about the difference between shame and guilt, and the nature of belief and reality which is fancy way of asking how do we really know the truth about things. It is also about community and how we deal with outcasts.The book is also about growing up without parents who care. Take my advice, care about what your kids and grand-kids are looking at online. It matters.The book is extremely well written and kept me going to the end. I rate it four stars out of five.
BALE on LibraryThing 6 months ago
In, Lost Memory of Skin, Russell Banks examines the plight of sex offenders; especially those whose offense is a matter of degree. Do we convict a young man (22 yrs) who has never touched another sexually and is a virgin, the same as one who raped a child, or any one? The problem with this sex offender is he crossed the fine line between intention and action. Had the father of the 14 year old girl not been at home when the young man showed up, would something have happened? He was certainly armed for action. Law is based upon intentions. By virtue of the contents in his backpack, his intentions seemed self-evident. However, Banks also makes it clear that the young man was one of societies lost souls, with a function-less upbringing, a friendless life, and a person who never even touched another. He was socially inhibited and may never have had the temerity to pull off his intention. The question will go unanswered; yet, the young man will be listed as a sex offender with, a tracking anklet, for ten years.This brings to light the next logical problem that Banks considers - are we creating a new type of victim by condemning sex offenders to live within a county, yet, a specified distance away from children, schools and playgrounds, in a town or city where kids can be found most anywhere. Many offenders become homeless because there is not any such place, or their public record keep landlords from allowing them into their buildings. Thus, they are left to occupy the underside of a causeway, a swamp, or an airport terminal¿ places no sane person would consider as a place to live.I applaud Banks for his worthy pursuit of a serious matter. He makes the reader think and look at the issues involved in a manner maybe never considered. He doesn¿t provoke sympathy or antipathy towards any of his hapless characters. However, the delivery of his subject matter lacks literary impact. His writing is dull, i.e., if compared to Richard Russo or any other writer of a similar genre. Some scenes, that would normally be compelling, were weak, unbelievable, and even a bit ridiculous. There is little doubt Russell Banks is a good writer. Unfortunately, this particular novel is not among his greats.
LizPhoto on LibraryThing 6 months ago
"Lost Memory of Skin" is a novel about a young man named The Kid who lives under a causeway in the Calusa area of Florida (a fictional name for Miami). The kid is forced to live under the bridge because he is a registered sex offender and can't live within 2500 feet of a school or where children gather. The kid lives with his iguana, Iggy and other men convicted of being sex offenders.The Kid may be a young adult at 21 years old but his character is complex, broken and psychologically damaged. He knows nothing of his father and his mother barely acknowledged his existence, so he was left to raise himself. The kid grew up with no friends or hobbies except Internet porn. The kid got busted on a online scheme and was thrown in jail only to be released to the ¿underworld¿ as a 21 year old virgin who was discharged from the military and now is a registered sex offender.After the police raided the camp under the bridge, where The Kid lives he meets a man he calls the Professor, who is very obese and extremely smart. The professor is from the sociology department at Calusa State and wants to interview The Kid about his life and organize the residents under the causeway into a civilized living area with laws, leadership and a permanent toilet. As time goes on The Kid learns to trust the professor but gets caught up in his strange life and deep secrets.I enjoyed "Lost Memory of Skin" but I felt that the story was not complete. Russell Banks introduces us to some interesting characters but does not go into enough detail about them. I realize it was done to keep some mystery but I feel that it doesn't really work.The fake town of Calusa really bothered me, everyone knows it is Miami. Being from Miami this bothered me a great deal because I could picture the exact places Banks was describing but was not able to connect them due to their idiotic name changes.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing 6 months ago
A novel about a convicted, homeless sex offender, the creepy fellow sex offenders who live under a causeway with him, and a professor who treats them like lab rats ¿ how can this book possibly be good? I was a little apprehensive about reading this one because I really don't want to read anything explicit about such an awful subject. Fortunately, there wasn't too much detail about the really horrible things that some people do although there were some sexually explicit terms and acts that made me uncomfortable just to read.The Kid is a registered sex offender, has to wear a GPS anklet at all times and keep it charged, and has almost nowhere to live because he has to stay in the county but has to stay at least 2500 feet away from children, eliminating everywhere except a camp under the causeway, the swamp, and a terminal at the airport. The Professor, an outsider, a pretty odd guy with secrets, befriends the Kid as part of a social experiment.I really cared about the Kid, could see the world from his viewpoint, and I liked that he tried so hard to take care of his animals, not always successfully. For the most part, I didn't learn much about the other sex offenders except for a nasty politician that I would have rather not known about, but that is because most of the characters don't want to be known. The Professor...what is the truth about him?This time the Kid doesn't resist. He's remembered that he's an object, a thing, not a human being with a will and a goal, and that he's only capable of reacting, not acting. The Professor's the human being here, not the Kid.The book book moved along at a good pace and, for the most part, I liked the style of writing. Dialogue in italics instead of quotes took a little interpretation ¿ who was speaking and to whom? As well as being a very entertaining novel, this story is also a social commentary, but the reader must decide for herself what the answers should be.I was given an advance reader's edition by the publisher so the quote may have changed in the published edition. Thank you to ECCO.
lynnytisc on LibraryThing 6 months ago
Very insightful book. Subject matter a little off the beaten path, but messages universal.
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The author has no fear of writing about subjects that affect our "civilized" society. I enjoy reading about socioeconomic issues, so this book intrerested me. I enjoyed the way he wrote from each perspective: the kid and the professor. The plot twists were intriguing. This book sent me to the library for Russelll Bank's short stories, another good read.
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