Robert Stone: The Funny Apocalypse

Robert Stone: The Funny Apocalypse

For a quarter century Robert Stone has been the American Baudelaire—poete maudit of Catholic mysticism and controlled substances, critic of modern folly, romantic pessimist in love with apocalypse. His five novels are all alike in structure and atmosphere, carrying two or three characters through a tense, incremental convergence toward catastrophe; taken together, they diagnose sick America in the rush and crash and flashback of Vietnam, which reverberates through all his work. And like Dos Passos and Faulkner and Bellow and Mailer, Stone writes novels that demand to be taken together. They don’t simply create distinct imaginary worlds—though they do this with the kind of indelible power that can be dangerous for young novelists; they also attempt a sustained commentary on American life. Stone begins at the time when Bellow went sour, in the sixties, and everything he’s written carries the marks of that traumatic birth: not skeptical humanism but lofty fatalism, closer perhaps to Melville, among American

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