- Taschenbuch: 432 Seiten
- Verlag: Profile Books (1. März 2012)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 1846685761
- ISBN-13: 978-1846685767
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 15,3 x 3,1 x 23,4 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 2 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 1.936.918 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
Lost Memory of Skin (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 1. März 2012
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"'The uncompromising moral voice of our time' (Michael Ondaatje) 'If you've never read Russell Banks it's time you acquired the habit' (Elmore Leonard) 'Banks is one of those precious writers like Twain or Salinger who creates a voice so wonderfully real that the experience of reading them is like a conversation with an old friend' (Sunday Times) 'Of the many writers working in the great tradition today, one of the best is Russell Banks' (New York Times)"
The acclaimed author of The Sweet Hereafter and Rule of the Bone returns with a provocative new novel that illuminates the shadowed edges of contemporary American culture with startling and unforgettable results
Suspended in a strangely modern-day version of limbo, the young man at the center of Russell Banks’s uncompromising and morally complex new novel must create a life for himself in the wake of incarceration. Known in his new identity only as the Kid, and on probation after doing time for a liaison with an underage girl, he is shackled to a GPS monitoring device and forbidden to live within 2,500 feet of anywhere children might gather. With nowhere else to go, the Kid takes up residence under a south Florida causeway, in a makeshift encampment with other convicted sex offenders.
Barely beyond childhood himself, the Kid, despite his crime, is in many ways an innocent, trapped by impulses and foolish choices he himself struggles to comprehend. Enter the Professor, a man who has built his own life on secrets and lies. A university sociologist of enormous size and intellect, he finds in the Kid the perfect subject for his research on homelessness and recidivism among convicted sex offenders. The two men forge a tentative partnership, the Kid remaining wary of the Professor’s motives even as he accepts the counsel and financial assistance of the older man.
When the camp beneath the causeway is raided by the police, and later, when a hurricane all but destroys the settlement, the Professor tries to help the Kid in practical matters while trying to teach his young charge new ways of looking at, and understanding, what he has done. But when the Professor’s past resurfaces and threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world, the balance in the two men’s relationship shifts.
Suddenly, the Kid must reconsider everything he has come to believe, and choose what course of action to take when faced with a new kind of moral decision.
Long one of our most acute and insightful novelists, Russell Banks often examines the indistinct boundaries between our intentions and actions. A mature and masterful work of contemporary fiction from one of our most accomplished storytellers, Lost Memory of Skin unfolds in language both powerful and beautifully lyrical, show-casing Banks at his most compelling, his reckless sense of humor and intense empathy at full bore.
The perfect convergence of writer and subject, Lost Memory of Skin probes the zeitgeist of a troubled society where zero tolerance has erased any hope of subtlety and compassion—a society where isolating the offender has perhaps created a new kind of victim.-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe. Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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Eventually he finds himself under the protection of an eccentric mountain of a man with a prodigious intellect and a social scientist's interest in the causes and consequences of sex offenders. Both the Kid and the Professor are, to put it mildly, social outliers, and their intertwining stories are meant to illuminate--well, something, but it goes from a little confusing to a confusing mess as the story unfolds. If Banks has something to say about the causes and consequences of sexual perversion, it seems to be a retread of the tired trope about rape: It's not about sex, it's about power. Only here, the emphasis is on the instigator, whose existence is so starved for efficacy that, somehow, he gets all sexually weird, or something. And let's not get started on the fat professor who weighs over 500 pounds and is smarter than practically anybody alive but who, now that he's no longer a spy (yes), is a pretty good guy with resources that beggar explanation, given that he's just an adjunct prof at a regional university.
The Kid never did anything very bad to deserve his fate; actually, he didn't do anything at all, so don't worry, you won't have a problem sympathizing with him. Or the gross professor, either. If Banks manages to tickle your urge to feel outraged by society's endless capacity for getting it wrong when dealing with misfits, you might even enjoy the book. But I wouldn't count on it.
It's also a story about a man called "The Professor" who befriends the Kid. The Professor is a professor of sociology at nearby Calusa State University. He tells the Kid that he'd like to interview him as a part of his research on people like the Kid, how they live, how they can construct lives within the constraints they are required to live under.
I won't spoil the story -- part of what I like about the novel is how it unfolds, how we, along with the Kid, piece together what is going on little by little, and, in the end, still can't be sure. We don't know much about the Kid either at the beginning -- we don't even know what his actual offense was until about halfway through the book. As a reader, my own sympathies for him develop as well as I learn about him. After all, he is a convicted sex offender, not a very sympathetic figure. But as he unfolds the story, Banks gives us a chance to see the Kid's life from the inside out, giving us the basis for seeing ourselves in even such an alien and ruined character.
The Professor is a bundle of misdirection -- stories about himself, told to the Kid, to his wife, and to himself, that don't fit together and that seem to conceal each other as if each were the cover story for the others. But this is the story of all of us to a greater or lesser degree. We recast our actions and the events in our lives through explanations, sometimes self-serving, sometimes just different by way of the need for some kind of explanation. The Kid's own story about his offense carries a similar fog of uncertainty. No one explanation is the right one -- they all swirl in an ambiguity we cannot resolve by simply paying closer attention to the facts.
But what the Kid's encounter with the Professor does, along with a devastating storm that destroys the causeway settlement, is produce in him an urgency for resolution to counter this inevitability of uncertainty. You can't wait to know before you act -- where knowing is impossible, you must decide, believe, and act. By the end of the book, that's what the Kid does.
If I find any fault with the book, it's with the explicitly philosophical conversations between the Kid and a reporter he meets toward the end of the story. Up until that point, the story tells itself, unfolding bit by bit. But many of the thoughts about knowledge, uncertainty, and the act of belief or resolution I mentioned above are spoken in dialogue between the Kid and the reporter. One of the great advantages, I think, of novels over philosophy is their ability to show rather than to say, to let the point unfold in a reality akin to real life rather than to simply state it and argue for it. That may only be a quibble with the book. I enjoyed it.
Besides the character development, the book's main theme is very out of the ordinary and makes you consider reconceptualizing your perception of sex offenders. That's a strong statement, I know, but take a moment to think on this.
A lot of the current talk about ending mass incarceration has focused on giving more leeway to non-violent offenders. This makes sense, for it is appealing to the general public and is more politically correct. However, ostracizing violent offenders doesn't necessarily solve the problem and promotes the idea that prison is not for rehabilitation but purely for punishment.
This book dives into this very idea by humanizing sex offenders, which is itself a feat. Like many, I do not have any warm feelings for sex offenders, particularly as a woman and given the current judicial system and cultural climate that leaves rapists unpunished. However, this book challenged my conceptions of these ideas and definitely has me seeing things less in black and white, and more on a spectrum of grey.
I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a different sort of read and is interested in having their views challenged on a seemingly straight forward topic.
At the heart of the story is the Kid, an early 20s sex offender living in a homeless encampment under a causeway in South Florida (Miami disguised as "Calusa") with other convicted sex offenders. Undoubtedly, the first couple of pages yield the normal disdain for the Kid because how else could you feel about a convicted sex offender. From this initial judgement and associated stigma, Banks slowly peels away the onion around the Kid --- his familial, social and economic circumstances --- until we are left with a far different perspective of a much more complex character. Only someone at the top of their craft could credibly build empathy around this type of character, blurring the lines between guilt and innocence, good and evil.
Shortly into the novel, we are introduced to the Professor, an obese genius with a shadowy and cryptic past, who is now a professor at the local university. There he studies and researches homelessness and more recently homelesses among sex offenders. An uneasy relationship builds between the Kid and the Professor -- is it exploitation, pure research with an eye toward better public consciousness and understanding of cause and effect of these two conditions or something else. Once again, Banks has full command, dropping enough crumbs for the reader without leading them to the meal. The truth is never what it seems for the characters and the reader, revealing more than meets the eye with each passing page while further obscuring other things.
In the last third of the novel, Banks adds an extra element of suspense and drama that had me on the fence for a while. I initially was quite skeptical of the plot twist and convinced myself it was not going to work, resulting in a big letdown and disaster from such a promising and brilliant beginning and middle. Well, I was certainly wrong. Banks effortlessly brings this last plot twist effortlessly back in a way that is remarkably true to the story and larger themes of the story without neatly wrapping a neat bow on each and every difficult question.
There are some parts of the book that left a terrible pit at the bottom of my stomach, one in particular at Benbow's where a video shoot is ambiguous enough but unnerving that I was nervous about where Banks was going to take it. Once again, I'm glad this was from the pen of someone as skilled as Banks.
"Lost Memory of Skin" is what great fiction is all about --- it is so engrossing you cannot put it down, it creates three dimensional characters, evokes a rich tapestry of place and time and tackles tough issues of the day with purpose but without lecturing or suggesting answers are simple.
Banks certainly didn't pick an easy topic in Lost Memory of Skin. His focus is on convicted sex offenders who, out of necessity, form a loose-knit community of men living under a Florida causeway. Under Florida law, the men must remain in the county while at the same time remaining 2,500 feet from any school, daycare center or other places where children gather. That leaves the men few options: under the causeway, in a swamp or at an airport terminal.
Among the modern-day trolls beneath a bridge is Kid (few of the characters go by real names in the book, adding to Banks' themes of truth and identity). Kid is a 22-year-old registered sex offender who can pass as a teenager. He was addicted to Internet porn and in his first and only attempt to reach out to what he thought was a real person is swept up in a sting, sent to jail, labeled a sex offender and is forced to wear an ankle monitor for 10 years. Kid is no noble Jean Val Jean, but neither is he truly a monster. The opening chapters of the book that detail Kid's life as a modern pariah are fascinating, despite the often bleak subject matter.
Into Kid's life steps the other main character, a morbidly obese sociology professor who wants to interview the Kid and turn him and his fellow causeway castaways into productive citizens. I'm guessing that many of the people who have problems with the book are more likely to stumble over the Professor than the Kid. For one thing, the Professor's addiction to food are described in more lurid detail than the Kid's addiction to porn. As a result, the Professor comes across as more grotesque than just about any other character.
And then there's the question of agendas. Is the Professor really what he seems? What does he really want from the Kid? Eventually the two build enough of a rapport that the Professor is able to start organizing the men beneath the causeway. They establish rules and choose leaders in the hope that if they can police themselves they can avoid future brutal police raids. But before the changes can fully take effect in the tiny community, disaster in the form of a hurricane strikes.
To say more about the plot would be to give too much away. Suffice it to say that before the story is over we're confronted with the issue of identity and truth and how the two don't always fit together.
I really enjoyed this novel, despite a few eye-rolling moments. Banks sometimes get a bit heavy-handed and pendantic when he writes about America's revulsion to sex offenders despite society's and the media's sexualization of young children. It's a good point, but could have been handled in a less preachy manner. And then there's a new character introduced in the last portion of the book who strains credibility and seems to have been written solely to steer the Kid through some murky moral matters. Overall, Lost Memory of Skin is one of those books that may be uncomfortable to read at times, but makes you confront issues you felt you'd never consider.