cover image Family Life

Family Life

Russell Banks. Sun and Moon Press, $13.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-55713-004-4

With this revised version of a 1975 novella, acclaimed novelist Banks (Continental Drift) lampoons the American family in a wonderfully funny range of literary styles. Family Life opens in the macho mode of the tall tale cum horse opera, replete with a patrilineal catalogue of brawling heroes who indulge in their boys-will-be-boys exploits. With marriage, a man gains the rank of royalty. King Egress the Hearty, embarrassed now about past escapades with his hippie buddy Loon, lives in an American hometown with his ""right-on queen.'' But she cavorts with the wine steward. The princes Orgone, Dread and Egress Jr. get into teenage scrapes, hunting girls and cougar, taking hash and coke, drinking and dying. When the Queen, aka Naomi Ruth, writes her own novel, rendered here in a chapter titled ``Remember Me to Camelot,'' she rephrases events in a tone of sentimental confessional relish. She tells about her cheerleader's crush on football captain Rex, their marriage, mobile home and three boys. But once Rex goes off to Vietnam, Naomi quickly gets liberated. How Rex and Naomi fare afterward emerges as a series of blase encounters in increasingly glitzy places. Exuberant and irreverent, Family Life bares a knife-edge of social satire. (May)