Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Deliverance by James Dickey

Can you hear the banjo music?

When people think of Deliverance, more than likely the movie comes to mind before the book and the gruesome rape scene comes to mind before the quality of writing does, if it ever does. What most people don’t seem to know is that before Dickey wrote this popular novel he was known for his poetry. His knack for poetic language flows over into his prose writing, where he uses descriptions and metaphors that other people wouldn’t think of. For instance, when Ed is struggling to climb up the cliff that will take him to the man who has killed his friend Drew, he’s described as making love to the cliff, using his hips in ways he never had with a woman.

I had a hard time reading Deliverance given the subject matter and some of the graphic descriptions, but I also had a hard time putting it down. Lewis is an Alpha male with a strange infatuation with the life that can only be found out in the hills where there’s music never before heard or recorded and the mountain people have resisted civilization. He has talked three of his friends into going on a weekend rafting trip out in BFE, Georgia, where even he finds himself ill-equipt to deal with the harsh realities of the area he was so excited about sharing with his friends.

At first, their only problems are the rapids in the river. Things escalate when they run into two locals who sodomize one of the men and attempt to sodomize another. A local is killed during the rape scene and the rest of the book deals with the revenge taken on the city dwellers by the local left alive. Bodies are buried, the living are injured, and the fight for life is met with questions, desperate struggle, and animal-like instinct.

Dickey also wrote the script for the film, so the book and the movie are more or less the same. Apparently, though, Dickey and the director had a squabble because Dickey was too demanding on set and made too many orders. He was asked not to return to the filming because of all his micromanaging.

I'd give Deliverance an eight out of ten.

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