Lawyers and Literature

| Spring | 2018 |


Russell Banks, The Sweet Hereafter

Russell Banks, The Sweet Hereafter 89-220 (New York: Harper Collins, 1991)

Related Reading: A non-fiction account of a major school bus accident in Kentucky and the litigation that followed: James S. Kunen, Reckless Disregard: Corporate Greed, Government Indifference, and the Kentucky School Bus Crash (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994). Commentary: Tony McAdams, Blame and The Sweet Hereafter, 24 Legal Stud. F. 599 610 (2000); Margaret J. Fried & Lawrence A. Frolik, The Limits of Law: Litigation, Lawyers and the Search for Justice in Russell Banks' The Sweet Hereafter, 7 Cardozo Stud. L. & Literature 1 (1995); Austin Sarat, Imagining the Law of the Father: Loss, Dread, and Mourning in The Sweet Hereafter, 34 Law & Soc'y Rev. 3 (2000); Timothy P. O'Neill, There Will Be Blame: Misfortune and Injustice in The Sweet Hereafter, U. Denver Sports & Ent. L. J. 19 (2008) [online text]; For his appearance at the 2000 Chicago Humanities Festival, the organizers of the festival noted that:
Russell Banks Russell Banks was raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. The eldest of four children, he grew up in a working-class world that has played a major role in shaping his writing. Through more than a dozen novels and short story collections that have won him Guggenheim and NEA grants and a St. Lawrence Prize for fiction, Banks has made a life's work of charting the causes and effects of the terrible things “normal” men can and will do. He writes with an intensely focused empathy and a compassionate sense of humor that help to keep readers, if not his characters, afloat through the misadventures and outright tragedies in his books.
Writings of Russell Banks: Searching for Survivors (1975), Family Life (1975), Hamilton Stark (1978), The New World (1978), The Book of Jamaica (1980), Trailerpark (1981), The Relation of My Imprisonment (1983), Continental Drift (1985), Success Stories (1986), Affliction (1989), Cloudsplitter (1998), The Invisible Stranger (1999), and The Angel on the Roof (2000). Film: The Sweet Hereafter were made into a feature film. The Sweet Hereafter was directed and adapted for the screen by Atom Egoyan and the film is quite good and I highly recommed it. [James R. Elkins, Lawyers and Film, course website]. Russel Banks commenting on Egoyan's film, observes that the film "pleased me immensely" and explains why:

[F]irst because, as a fan of the films of Atom Egoyan, I think that The Sweet Hereafter is his best film, but most personally, as the author of the novel, I think that the film is faithful to the novel's vision of the world, which is to say, my vision of the world. He managed to translate the moral center of the novel in such a way as to make it the moral center of the film. This is the rarest of accomplishments in adaptation. I think that the director is one of the most imaginative and intelligent directors working today. And I feel privileged to have had my novel adapted by him. Naturally, in the adaptation process, the backstory and background and a certain aspect of character get lost, or abandoned. After all, a novel takes a day, two days or three to read and a film happens in less than two hours. But given the constrictions of time and what I regard as the limitations of cinema he did an extraordinary job. [Interview, Time, March 4, 1998]

Film Movie Trailer

Banks and His Fiction: A Working-class Hero is Something to Be


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