dy. Both these achievements are finelynpresent in Continental Drift; they are,nin fact, the backbone of the novel. Butnat bottom Banks’s understanding ofnour situation is that of the surrealist,nthe allegorical fantasist. This is thenkind of understanding a novelist needsnin order to take for granted the impossibleninjushces, the impossible terrors,nthat characterize our present time onnearth.nBanks’s understanding is unsparingnand generously given. As a novelist, henis truly wise and in Continental Driftnhas chosen an omniscient point ofnview which firmly accommodates hisninsights. Here, for example, is an introductorynglimpse of Jimmy Grabow,na very minor character:nHe smiled often, talked rapidlynand volubly and enjoyedntouching people while henrattled away at them, enjoyednputting his hands on whomevernhe talked to, his arms aroundnshoulders, his hands on cheeks,narms, chests, so that mostnpeople, when they left thenshop, reached for their wallets,nand finding them, wonderednwhat Grabow had taken fromnthem, for always, after talkingnwith Grabow, one feltnsomehow he’d managed to takenaway something that wasn’tnrightfully his.nThe kind of interpretation this passagenexhibits is common in the novel,nand it is observable even from this onensentence that Banks’s commentary isnnot ironic in purpose; it intendsnstraightforwardly to inform and illuminate.nIn fact, apart from that inherentnin the plot, there is little irony in thenbook. Banks faces all his materialn—which is ripe for ironic treatmentn—head on. He even judges his characters:nVanise Dorsinville, whose storynis grindingly sordid in some respects, isna heroic figure; Robert Dubois is andecent man who haplessly commitsnmultiple murders.nIn Aeschylus’ phrase, Helen of Troynwas “destroyer of men, destroyer ofncities.” In Continental Drift, it is thenidea of Golden America which takesnon this destructive power, leading thenstrong and hopeless, as well as thenweak and wistful, to inexorable calamity.nYet the novel is not utterly anti-nIn the forthcoming issue of Chronicles of Culture:nMarxism: A Dying Godn”Some Westerners apparently reject any distinction betweennauthoritarianism and totalitarianism, and it is hardnto know what to say to them. At a minimum, they arenstuck with the untenable position of refusing to allow thatnSolzhenitsyn is an antitotalitarian, despite the whole recordnof his life and works. They also must come to termsnwith the whole historical record of regimes which did notnseek to control every aspect of a citizen’s life—social,ncultural, personal—which allowed freedoms of speech,nthought, travel, occupation, academic pursuit, religiousnbelief and practice. They are forced to say that all leadersnnot democratically elected are tyrants.”n—from “Solzhenitsyn and Democracy”nby Edward E. Ericson Jr.nALSOnPaul Hollander lays bare the contradictionsnof Marxist theory and practicenMichael Warder reopens the case of Arkady ShevchenkonJ. Enoch Powell explores the experience of ancient Christiansnidealistic. Vanise Dorsinville is notnentirely mistaken in her dream of freedomnin the United States. Dubois isnmistaken, partly about the nature ofnhis native land, mostiy about the naturenof freedom itself. Freedom, Banksngives us to know, is not merely thenopportunity to escape boredom and tonascend the ladder of upward mobility.nIt is a way of feeling and thinking sonenormous, so pervasive, that we whonlive inside its easy atmosphere cannrarely make out its character.nSimple enough to see that Dubois isndeceived by a false idol, and one piecenof irony that Banks does engage in is toncontrast Dubois’ deceived unreligiousnfaith against the Haitian woman’snsteadfast ardent belief in voudon (whatnyou and I call “voodoo”). So far as Inknow, only Jorge Amado has evernbefore treated this important religionnseriously in literature, and Banks inndoing so is surely attacking his audience’snuninformed prejudices. Yet it isnnot enough to treat it seriously; it mustnalso be comprehensible and convinc­nnning. Banks’s knowledge in this matternseems as careful and detailed as hisnknowledge of the mores of Florida.nThe voudon scenes are crucial, and henhas brought them off.nContinental Drift is a grand book,none of the very best novels of recentntimes. Banks has appealed to the sophisticatednreader in such a way as tondisarm his sophisticahon, and if therenare any unsophisticated readers still atnlarge upon the planet, they must benbreathlessly absorbed by the book. Fornit is an absorbing novel; the anticipatednintersection of destinies doesn’t evennbegin to take place until page 283 ofn366, but one never feels impatient ornput upon. The suspense is unforced,nbut it is unremitting.nAnd that is one of the best satisfactionsnof Continental Drift, our unobtrusivenawareness that the author alwaysnknows exactly what he is doing.nThere are few of even our best contemporarynwriters to whom we giventhis confidence. ccnOCTOBER 198517n