Friday, April 13, 2012

Russell Banks - Continental Drift (1985)

Continental Drift is a converging of two cultures, of two very different worlds, who take part in a similar journey; white and black into a formation of 'gray.' Its dual perspectives are written about with an omnipresent, almost anthropological detachment. However, due to Bank's ability to present the shoes of his characters for you to walk in, and a natural application of vernacular, both stories feel very personal. The prose is simple, yet at the same time quite technical.

In many ways, Continental Drift is a spiritual successor to Updike's Rabbit, Run. Bob Dubois, like Rabbit is a simple man who begins to long for something more in his life. Both characters have similar destinations and are a bit racist and misogynistic, at least as much so as the next uneducated, small town man in their respective times/environments. The only difference is a crucial one (perhaps also a modern one) and that is that Bob Dubois has the boldness to act on his ennui, to scratch his itch, and goes through with his exodus into the 'new world' and Continental Drift revolves around this folly.

My problem with it, was that it was not particularly entertaining or relatable, for a book that advertises itself as it would be. The main reason for this was that its characters were too naive, their mistakes too apparent to me. The scenarios Bob found himself in were frustrating to me and could have all been avoided with a little foresight. I will say that I enjoyed the last part, however. During the 'ritual' scene, I was listening to Jandek perform his first live radio broadcast, and the combined effect of the music with the words put me in a trance. There was a building up, a letting go, an excitement, a remnant of animalistic fury, of sex and violence. I lost myself for a short while.

Finally, the author's note at the end of the book really tied everything together and clarified Banks' motives in writing Continental Drift. All in all, it was a decent read, but as someone who is not a 'Bob Dubois' it offered nothing profound and hence I would have to label it as 'novel.' Read if you ever visit the Keys.

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