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At 90, Edgy Book Reviewer Says Goodbye to Fans

If you're looking for Belle Banks, all you need are your ears. At 90-years-old, Belle draws big laughs everywhere she goes. For 15 years, Belle Banks has been a regular at Davidson Town Hall. Every three months, she's reviewed book to a loyal following. It's the way she serves up her book reviews-with a side of bawdy humor-that has kept her fans coming back for more. For example, take this punchline about a man marveling at a woman's swimming stamina: "I'm a prosititute in Memphis and I work both sides of the river." As you can tell, Belle's book reviews area lot like her-a little unconventional with a lot of sass. The reading selection is diverse and can run the gamut from pop culture hits to great literature. Davidson resident Joyce Hight attended her Oct. Oct. 21st book review. She's been attending Belle's literary events for years. "She's real down to earth, and I think she appeals to everybody. And she's just good fun," Hight says. "She enjoys herself and I think her readers enjoy her because she really enjoys reading so much." But on this evening, Belle is also saying goodbye. At ninety, the demands of writing the quarterly reviews have become too great. "You know, this coming up here all these years has been one of the joys of my life," Belle tells the audience. "I have just loved being with you all and sharing these moments with you and being friends together, and it's too bad we don't have more situations like this where we can get together and laugh and have a good time and maybe share a soda." About 80 fans turned out for her last review session. The lineup included a fictionalized account of First Lady Laura Bush, Barbara Walters' memoir, and two works of historical fiction. "I just wish I weren't so old, because I just love doing it, and wish I could continue doing it. But when you're 90 years old, you don't buy too many green bananas." You can say that books helped raise Belle's family. Her husband was Richard Torrance Banks, a book editor at the Charlotte Observer. And Belle worked as a librarian for 14 years. "I was brought up as a reader, since I was a little girl," she says. "My family, we were all readers. Even when I was 10 years old, I was reading True Confessions magazines that the neighbors would save for me." Belle's approach to literature and life has made her somewhat of a local legend. "I hear there's noting like laughter for good health. And I just believe that laughing is the most wonderful thing people could share with each other. And thank the good Lord that he gave me the ability to tell jokes. I can't do much else, but I can tell jokes," she says. As small squares of goodbye cake and cups of Mountain Dew are passed out to the crowd, friends and fans gather around Belle. She chats and laughs with them, enjoying the simple pleasures of community that these reviews have been about for so long. Belle tells her fans: "Thanks for the memories."