Old reads that are good: Dickey’s Deliverance

by gbcpl on April 26, 2012

We Geek, order You Geek, Everybody Geeks
The Greenville-Butler County Public Library staff is getting our ‘Geek’ on! Friday, the library will roll out a national library advocacy campaign – Geek the Library. But what is ‘Geek the Library’? Geek, in this circumstance, is a verb and is used for anything you’re passionate about. It encourages the public to talk about what they ‘geek’ – whether it’s engineering, superheroes, video games, art, etc. The campaign shows that everyone is passionate about – or ‘geeks’ – something. And the public library supports them all. Come out Friday for the library’s book sale at 5 p.m. to learn more. Special promotional material – bookmarks, bags, postcards, stickers – will be available! Visit the Geek the Library website to learn more about this campaign.

Before its evolution into a film best remembered as a heterosexual male’s worst nightmare, prostate Deliverance was a mighty fine novel. It still is.

James Dickey, prescription (who played the part of the twang-talking Sheriff in the 1972 picture), published the book in 1970. Thirty-two years later it remains one the 100 best novels of the 20th century. And its mainstay on that list is not because of the film’s perseverance in the American subconscious. It’s because of the power of Dickey’s writing. Observe the opening chapter:

It unrolled slowly, forced to show its colors, curling and snapping back whenever one of us turned loose. The whole land was very tense until we put our four steins on its corners and laid the river out to run for us through the mountains 150 miles north. Lewis’ hand took a pencil and marked out a small strong X in a place where some of the green bled away and the paper changed with high ground, and began to work downstream, northeast to southwest through the printed woods. I watched the hand rather than the location, for it seemed to have power over the terrain, and when it stopped for Lewis’ voice to explain something, it was as though all streams everywhere quit running…”

While Dickey will best be remembered for this bestselling book, he considered himself a poet first and this opening paragraph reads like poetry. In four sentences Dickey has set the stage for the ultimate conflict in Deliverance: man vs. nature. Sure, it is a brutal attack by men that necessitates the four friends retreat to civilization. But it is the all raging, all powerful river they must battle each agonizing second of the way.

But, yes, THAT still happens to Bobby.

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