is. Make your way across the syntaxnwithout becoming too distracted bynthe short circuits of modifiers and takenaccount of the interesting color changesnof Griselda Graves’s “holy face.” Theynplay a key role in this novel.nAnother important character is MarynDee Adkins, a beautiful 23-year old.nA typical scene illustrates how adorablenshe is and how atrociously thingsnare described: Ms. Adkins is in a Chicagonsnowstorm, looking out the windownof her “flashy—new—little rednDatsun 1200.” Mr. Colter writes: “Althoughnin the maelstrom of snow hernface seemed alien, indistinct, remote—nit was also partially obscured by thenfierce hood of the great fur parka shenwore—it could readily be recognizednby almost anyone who had ever seen itnbefore as that of Mary Dee Adkins.”nHow can an obscured face that’s aliennand all the rest be readily recognized.”nBut the reader who has made it to pagen123 is already too numbed to spendnmuch time on that question. After all,njust five pages before, Griselda hasnkissed the base of the Picasso sculpturenin Chicago and told a passer-by, “It maynsomeday lead us.” And there are stillnover 650 pages to go.nMr. Colter has a great liking forndashes. He probably uses more of themnthan anyone this side of the 19th-centurynromantic poets. And dashes aren’tnthe only thing he has taken from thatnperiod. For example, his charactersnowe something to Dickens, at least withnregard to their names: John CalvinnKnight for a Martin Luther King type;nHungerford for a character hungry fornpower (remember Gradgrind in HardnTimes?); Gideon for a so-called streetnpoet, and so on.nA he book is also something of an19th-century melodrama, which goesnback to a relationship with 20th-centuryntelevision. The novel centers aroundnKnight, leader of an organization callednthe Black Peoples Congress, a blacknnationalist group. Although the actionnprimarily takes place in the 70’s, theren24inChronicles of Culturenare poorly contrived flashbacks thatndetail the agonies that Knight’s ancestorsnunderwent. Flashbacks often takenplace when Knight is in his hospitalnbed brooding. (He has been shot bynsome disgruntled blacks, and the mysterynof the crime is solved by Gideon,na junkie, who is almost incapable of anynforward locomotion other than a stumble.)nHe broods, then there is an ellipsisnand a line such as: “But in Africa …”n(author’s punctuation), then back we gon200 years. In some cases. Knight’s flashbacksnoccur from one paragraph to thennext, or there is a row of stars separatingnthe copy, or a fresh chapter. It’snboth inconsistent and clumsy, but itnwould work on television since thenviewer couldn’t see the layout. It is anproblem for the reader.nMaking things more complex is thenfact that interspersed with Knight’snpast and present are the stories of GriseldanGraves and Mary Dee Adkins.nGriselda is apparently Caucasian. Shengets a “bizarre notion” and leaves hernlover in San Francisco to go to Chicagonand join up with the Black Peoples Congress.nBeing white, she dons an Afronwig so she will be accepted by the blacknnationalists. But the reader knows better:nGriselda’s father’s maternal grandmothernwas black, which explains allnof her strange desires and urges. She isnso well accepted by Knight that she getsnto know him quite well while she’s wearingnnothing but her Afro wig—whichneventually causes problems for the blacknleader. All this time, Griselda is beingnchased by Marvin, a champion typistnwho has a head shaped like a potato andnwho is usually either crying or salivating.nMary Dee, an art student in Paris,n”^nf “ri ) _Lll )n|k^^;:3^ ‘•^iii-/8nJ ^ j|l’ 1^ ~? – •> =fc=^^:;=:^^i=^ ^^^^^^^^nnnis involved with Phillip Morgan Wilcoxnof Philadelphia (his father, naturally,nis a member of the Harvard Board ofnOverseers) when we first meet her.nEventually they split: Phillip’s parentsnwould not allow their son to marry anblack woman; they would cut off hisnallowance if he did. The values suggestednby the book become apparentnwhen Phillip asks Mary Dee to becomenhis mistress in Paris and to forego anmarriage ceremony. She thinks shenwould, except that “all the historicalnimplications” of their respective pigmentsnget in the way: if he were black,nshe thinks, such a relationship would benokay. Once she breaks off with Phillipnshe forms “a bitter, implacable hatrednfor Phillip’s parents and all their kind”nand joins the Black Peoples Congress.nJust as the reader knows Griselda hasnblack blood, it is also painfully obviousnthat the mysterious black man that MarynDee sees in Paris early in the book isnKnight, and that it is only a matter ofntime until they meet. This is the stuffnof which TV dramas are made: inexorablendrives and passions that lead ournhero and heroines to their ends. Afternall, there’s not much time to developncharacters during a 30-minute programnor even a full-blown “mini-series.”nNight Studies has 774 pages to developncharacters, but it’s an opportunitynnot taken.nBut even if the problems of thenstructure and characterization are overlookednand the novel is considered asna sociopolitical statement about thenrelationship between blacks and whitesnin the U.S., the book is a failure; nonsuch message is spelled out. True, theninhumanities of the slave trade are putnforth, but the reader could read of themn