Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks

"Cloudsplitter" is the story of abolitionist John Brown as told from his son Owen's point of view. Owen is writing a letter to a reporter who had tried to interview him about his father. Feeling remorse for being rude, Owen decides to cooperate with a written statement. He follows his life with John Brown through childhood through the raid on Harper's Ferry.

The book is very long-winded. Owen repeatedly spends pages writing about his fathers philosophy and influence on other people. He comes across as a little awestruck by John.

Banks straight-out tells you it's a work of fiction. He changes facts, adds events and changes the sequence of events to fit his literary needs. Personally, I felt there was too much fiction. I think you should be able to learn a little something with books. But with "Cloudsplitter" you need to read the book with an encyclopedia nearby to separate fact from fiction. I've read too many fictionalized stories to think you have to rewrite someones life so completely. Either use the life as a basis for a fictional book or write a fictitious original character. Don't try to mix the two.

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