Books: Biblical Overkill

FIVE SMOOTH STONES by Ann Fairbairn. 756 pages. Crown. $6.95.

American literature has often been starved for lack of a grand theme—a Tolstoyan war, a Flaubertian passion, a Jamesian conflict of cultures. The Ne gro revolution, at once violent and vital, agonizing and altruistic, could provide such a theme. Novelist Ann Fairbairn tries to tackle it in this ambitious, achingly overwritten epic. The result is a compelling argument for instant Black Power—if only to avert a sequel.

The five smooth stones of the title are the ones that David carried into battle against Goliath;...

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