Foregone by Russell Banks

Russell Banks
Russell Banks

Russell Banks’ novel Foregone is rocking the bestseller list, and I’m sure the literary world is waiting with bated breath to hear a review from his former son-n-law, blogger Stephen Hartshorne.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer; this is a great book, both for the “deep meaning” readers and the “great story” readers. 

I went into it looking for biographical parallels to Banks’ own life, which are not there, but I came away with abiding respect for the “truth in fiction” which was there.

I’m not the first to point out that nothing good has ever happened to a character in a Russell Banks novel since Bob DuBois got a blowjob in Continental Drift. In Foregone, the protagonist, Leonard Fife, gets a handjob from the wife of his professor friend, and it’s enough to send him off to Canada, where he becomes a famous documentary filmmaker.

The novel begins when Fife is near death when one of his students is conducting an interview for a documentary of his own. Add a colostomy bag, an IV drip, a charismatic Haitian nurse, and, as they say in Hollywood, hilarity ensues.

Fife starts telling there brilliant stories from his own life, like when he stole a car with his friend Nick and they went to California:

“When they ran away, Fife says, they weren’t really running away from anything. They were running toward something. It was an originating act, a clear-cut beginning of things. There probably hasn’t been one like it for either of them since, Fife says. They chose one kind of imagined future over and against another, and they did it at the first and only moment in their young lives when they weren’t canceling out some prior choice. That’s what males ir clean and honorable.”

Here is where Banks is catering to the ‘deep meaning’ people, and as one of the ‘great story’ people, I have to sit back and agree with Nick, “Yea, sure, whatever you say, man.”

Foregone also features cameos by Joan Baez and Bob Dylan!