Deliverance by James Dickey

First read: 12/2003
Reviewed on: 12/16/2003
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I did not like it.
I liked it.
I thought it one of the Best Novels of All Time

I saw the movie first. Everyone's seen the movie first. But had I not, I would have read this book and said, "There is no way they could make this book into a movie. It's all about the writing."

When you picture the movie, you always picture one scene (you know which one) or maybe two scenes (including dueling banjos). That's kind of sad, because every scene in the film was wonderful. The book is different, in that those two scenes don't leap out as strongly.

Oh god I enjoyed this novel. Every page is a treasure. James Dickey is one of those authors who obviously labors over each sentence, making it just right. The scene where Ed climbs up the cliff takes a very long time, and I wasn't bored for an instant. The narrator feels real, Lewis feels real, and their relationship just rings completely true. I was visiting Minneapolis with Laurel, and I was annoying everybody by whipping this book out during any pause in the conversation. I couldn't put it down.

The movie left one plot point ambiguous - what happened to Drew in the canoe right before the rapids? I think the book made it very clear. That was disappointing to me; I thought that part of the impact of the film is that we didn't know for sure. There's also a lot more homoerotic subtext in the book, but nothing to get your penis in a knot over, it's subtle. For the most part.

I wish this novel had lasted longer.


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