Read Continental Drift by Russell Banks Free Online
Book Title: Continental Drift|
The author of the book: Russell Banks
Edition: Ballantine Books (Mm)
Date of issue: March 12th 1986
ISBN 13: 9780345330215
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2398 times
Reader ratings: 6.3
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 546 KB
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Let’s start with the unusual epilogue: “Knowledge of the facts of Bob’s life and death changes nothing in the world. Our celebrating his life and grieving over his death, however, will. Good cheer and mournfulness over lives other than our own, even wholly invented lives – no, especially wholly invented lives – deprive the world as it is of some of the greed it needs to continue to be itself. Sabotage and subversion, then, are this book’s objectives. Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is.”
Bob, our main character, is a young man (late 20’s) growing up in New Hampshire, who, although he doesn’t know it yet, is surrounded by examples to avoid – his father, his older brother, his best friend. He repairs oil burners in a dying town in the dead cold of New Hampshire’s winters. He has a wife, two daughters, a crappy car, a crappy house, but a nice boat, (almost paid off) and a woman on the side.
But Bob has a white guy problem: it’s just not enough. His older brother appears to be living the good life in Florida. Both Bob and his money-obsessed older brother seem overly or unrealistically influenced by ads on TV for tropical vacations and Mercedes.
Thus begins the two threads of the story: two families seeking better lives in Florida – one family in New Hampshire and one in Haiti. We know from the beginning they will meet in tragedy of almost unimaginable proportion. As hard as it is to believe, we are told that Bob, in his late 20’s, has previously had “no interaction with black people” even though he’s been in the service.
Fast-forward to Florida. Bob works for his brother and lives in a one-bedroom dilapidated trailer. Later he runs sport fishing boats for his best friend and, unlike his best friend, he won’t smuggle drugs on the side but the thinks he’s helping people out by smuggling in illegal Haitian immigrants. A big and tragic mistake.
The novel becomes almost a catalog of the financial holes the unsuspecting pursuers of the American Dream can fall into. And the way we get sucked into stereotypes of how the grass is greener over the state line. Just two weeks ago I read an article about a small community of 100 people in Florida who have unsafe water and whose average annual income is $10,000 – try living on that in sunny Florida!
Some quotes I liked:
“When you seek to acquire the love of someone who resembles you, in gender, temperament, culture or physical type, you do so for love of those aspects of yourself, gender, temperament, culture, etc.; but when you seek the love of someone different from you, you do so to be rid of yourself.”
After a white guy shows up waving a gun in the home of a black family, threatening the father and daughter who live there: “She and her father never speak of the event again, not to each other and not to anyone else. There’s nothing to say about it to each other that is not already fully understood, so they remain silent about it, almost as if it never happened.”
Bob reflects on the role of luck in life: “And luck can’t last a lifetime, unless you die young.”
When this book was published in 1985, James Atlas, a writer and editor for the Atlantic, called it “The most convincing portrait I know of contemporary America.” Maybe it was then.
This is my first Russell Banks. I found it a very good read but bit overdone with some of the characters bordering on stereotypes. Bob’s ignorance of black people seems extreme; his callousness and nonchalance about his extra-marital affairs seems overdone; his brother’s ties with Mafia-type guys and his profanity seem melodramatic as does the way the poverty and the docility of the Haitian immigrants are portrayed. I don’t know exactly what it was but it was almost a DNF for me about a third of the way through. Yet I stuck with it and in the end I was glad I did and I gave it a 4.
Image of trailer park in Thermal, CA from bbci.co.uk/news
Picture of Haitian boat people posted on Kan'an 48 WordPress.com
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Read information about the authorRussell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplitter, The Sweet Hereafter, and Affliction. The latter two novels were each made into feature films in 1997.
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