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Deliverance (Modern Library 100 Best Novels) Paperback – September 10, 1994
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"A novel that will curl your toes...Dickey's canoe rides to the limits of dramatic tension."—New York Times Book Review
"A brilliant and breathtaking adventure."—The New Yorker
"A novel stunning power."—The Nation
"A tour de force."—New Republic
From the Publisher
"A novel that will curl your toes...Dickey's canoe rides to the limits of dramatic tension."--The New York Times Book Review
"A brilliant and breathtaking adventure."--The New Yorker
"A novel stunning power."--The Nation
"A tour de force."--The New Republic
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Dickey’s continuous examinations in the early part of the book infect the reader with the malaise that has enveloped Ed Gentry and become his life. As a canoe trip that began as a break in life’s monotony quickly morphed into a struggle for survival, we can see how Ed changes and becomes someone he never imagined he could be.
This book is a mixture of a thriller tinged with adventure, camaraderie, dread, and the horror that only an unexpected, unspeakable situation can inflict. Human nature is human nature, and it is impossible to predict how anyone would act if confronted with a similar situation. Author James Dickey’s portrayal of forced survival decisions is powerful and revealing, and is not a book to be missed. Five stars.
But returning to the novel this month, at the age of 48 and a lifetime of literary wanderings in my back pocket, I returned to the book to see what I missed.
I missed a lot. Dickey's novel, while in terms of narrative action, is point-for-point with the film. But in terms of deep themes and imagery, the two are the length of a Georgia river apart. On the surface, the novel is the chronicle of a weekend adventure by four Atlanta men into the wild to canoe down the fictional Cahulawasee River before the area is dammed and flooded. The men, lead by wanna-be survivalist Lewis, slog their way through rough terrain and even rougher waters before running afoul of two predatory locals with… well, let's just say monstrous personalities. Soon, the weekend -warriors find themselves in far over their city-bred heads in a struggle for their own survival, and bad choice after bad choice leads them deeper into the heart of darkness.
I believe that Dickey's novel can best be understood as deep Freudian allegory, with a healthy dose of Northrop Frye thrown in for good measure. The woods take on mythic proportions, and each man is faced with his own, personal Freudian nightmare of impotence, Oedipal terror, and homoerotic panic. The novel deftly straddles the line between adulation of the male psyche and parody of masculine coming of age narratives. A novel of ironic wit and existential fear, Deliverance is a 20th century masterpiece.
While most people would probably not consider reading this book because of certain images that came out of the movie, if you can get past the the squealing pig or banjo playing hillbillies jokes, this book truly (excuse the pun) delivers.