Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 402
Perhaps the single most insightful novel written by a Euro-American male writer in response to the growing awareness of racial and sexual oppression, CONTINENTAL DRIFT marks Russell Bank’s emergence as an important voice in mainstream fiction. Known primarily for his experimental fiction, Bank’s here employs a much more accessible style--derived...
(The entire section contains 402 words.)
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- Critical Essays
Perhaps the single most insightful novel written by a Euro-American male writer in response to the growing awareness of racial and sexual oppression, CONTINENTAL DRIFT marks Russell Bank’s emergence as an important voice in mainstream fiction. Known primarily for his experimental fiction, Bank’s here employs a much more accessible style--derived in large part from Afro-American oral storytelling traditions--tempering his self-conscious speculation on the nature of fiction with more traditional techniques of characterization and plot.
The central characters are Bob Dubois, a thirty-year-old repairman from a small town in New Hampshire, and Vanise Dorsinville, a refugee from Haiti. These two central characters, accompanied by various family members, drift not quite aimlessly toward Florida. On the surface, Bob’s pervasive, but never quite specific, dissatisfaction with American middle-class life contrasts sharply with Vanise’s dogged determination to reach the United States, where even the bottom rungs of the economic ladder seem preferable to the oppression which has driven her from Haiti. On deeper levels, however, Banks asserts a profound connection between Bob and Vanise, neither of whom can directly confront or alter the forces moving them inexorably toward a sequence of tragic encounters.
Typified by Banks’s convincing depiction of Vanise’s reliance on the voodoo “loa” as a source of strength, the novel is noteworthy for its sensitive treatment of experience usually dismissed by Euro-American male writers. Like William Faulkner’s best novels, CONTINENTAL DRIFT offers no easy solutions but has much to offer readers concerned with the possibility of moral action in a seemingly chaotic world.
Benvenuto, Christine. “Mapping the Imagination: A Profile of Russell Banks.” Poets and Writers 26 (March/April, 1998): 20-27. A comprehensive discussion of Banks’s main themes and influences, including his views on violence, working-class characters, and contemporary gender issues.
Joyce, Cynthia. “The Salon Interview: Russell Banks.” Salon, January 5, 1998: 1-15. Banks comments upon his writing process, his central thematic preoccupations, and the film versions of his novels.
Lee, Don. “About Russell Banks.” Ploughshares 19, no. 4 (1993): 209-213. A biographical and critical sketch tracing Banks’s background and its influence on his fiction.
Reeves, Trish. “The Search for Clarity: An Interview with Russell Banks.” New Letters 53, no. 3 (1987): 44-59. Reeves questions Banks on the social and realistic themes in his fiction, especially in relevance to Continental Drift.
Vandersee, Charles. “Russell Banks and the Great American Reader.” The Cresset 53, no. 2 (1989): 13-17. Places Banks’s fiction into a larger American literary tradition.