If you stop and think about Robert Penn Warren's most ambitious novel in years (Instead of going right on reading it), the two central characters don't really carry it: namely Jed Tewksbury with his identitylessness; or the hedonistic, sluttish Rozelle whom he loves for most of his life--who's right out of the same Alabama small town of Frank Yerby. There's a strong and eye-catching opener when Jed's "booze-bit" father dies, pissed and pissing on a mule. This confirms his mother's decision to make Jed leave this sumphole--"git what's to git, then git." Jed gits, on to a small college, then graduate school in Chicago where, with the sponsorship of a refugee scholar, he works on his important paper dealing with Dante's metaphysic of death. Will it be the death warrant of the quiet girl he marries? (A gentle double take here.) After that Jed goes to Nashville to teach and enters into the long carnal conjunction with Rozelle, Rozelle always on the make and the take. Jed finally shucks his enslavement to her when he learns of her possible complicity in her sick husband's drowning. In the uncertain years that follow, he is seen married, a father, divorced, in Europe where Rozelle (now with a black swami) turns up briefly, and finally returning to his mother's grave in the hope of finding his "final self, long lost." After all, he had never known "happiness, only excitement." These are, after all, unoriginal ideas which do not lend any distinctive heft to Warren's unfashionable, overt itinerary.