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RULE OF THE BONE by Russell Banks


by Russell Banks

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017275-4
Publisher: HarperCollins

 Banks follows The Sweet Hereafter (1991) with this in-the- hero's-own-words tale of an upstate New York teenager who has trouble aplenty with parents, drugs, and desperados. Chappie Dorset is 14 and ``heavy into weed'' when he starts his life of crime: caught stealing, he cuts out, leaving behind his divorced mother, pet cat, and the vile stepfather who's been weaseling his own sexual pleasures from the boy for a considerable time. And therewith begins a long and coincidence-driven tale as Chappie is loosed upon the world. Imprisoned by a grand-larcenous gang who think he's double-crossed them, he barely escapes a raging fire that, like Huck Finn, leaves people believing him dead. Amid occasional philosophizings about the difference between the illegal and the criminal (drugs seem generally to be the first, not second), Chappie changes his name to Bone (he gets crossed bones tattooed on his arm), after which there's a period of hiding, a second encounter with a child pornographer, a largish theft from same, and, by luck, friendship with I-Man, a gently philosophic (and ganja-smoking) Rastafarian from Jamaica who, when he returns to his family (and his drug business) on that island paradise, is accompanied by Bone. What Bone finds in Jamaica includes drugs (raising, sale, use, and export), deaths (some by Uzi), sex, mysticism, initiation rites, crime, and, not least, Bone's real father, a more slimy piece of work than Huck's Pa ever was. Near the end of his year or so of travel, danger, and discovery, Bone remarks on ``how different I was now from how I was then''; and while all will agree that he's more experienced, they may not agree that Bone is much changed as he arranges ``to come back to the States and lead a normal life and get my shit together for the future.'' As has often been the case with Banks: ambitious voyaging, but, in spite of its distances, mainly on the surface. (First printing of 100,000; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)