Books: From an Aeolian Cave

FLOOD by Robert Perm Warren. 440 pages. Random House. $5.95.

Those who have admired Robert Penn Warren for his criticism, poetry or fiction cannot fail to be puzzled and dismayed by Flood. The inflated emotion, imprecise language and theatricality of situation that bubble up in Flood all but submerge Warren's virtues, which are considerable: a great talent for narrative and a sense of place as keen as an animal's.

Warren moves as sure-footed as ever through an intricate plot. Fiddlersburg, a town in Tennessee, is about to disappear under the waters of a federal...

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