Saturday, November 13, 2010

The James Dickey "Goodbye to Serpents" bench in front of the Vivarium at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris on Saturday, and our old friend the Gabon Viper inside.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Deliverance" and "The Wilding"

Benjamin Percy's new novel, "The Wilding," looks like one to watch, and it's good to see him acknowledge so openly his debt to the work of James Dickey. An excerpt from Percy's interview on the Powell's Books Blog:

Percy: Well, the novel is in so many ways about animalistic impulses. Every character is struggling with this inner wilding, and in some cases it boils over. It manifests itself most obviously in the character of Brian, who in donning this hair suit becomes almost lycanthropic. Then there are more subtle examples such as with Karen, where she's stepping outside the boundaries of marriage and wrestling with sexual impulses that might lead her away from her family. This is an idea that parallels some of what we see in James Dickey's Deliverance. This year marks the 40th anniversary of that novel, and it's one of the most important books in my library. I modeled The Wilding in many ways after it. If you look at Deliverance, it's one of the central themes that Dickey is trying to explore as well.
I didn't set out to write about animal instinct. I didn't set out to write about the clash between wilderness and civilization. I never set out with a theme in my mind. I begin with images in mind, with characters in mind, and the themes rise up organically. It's at first an instinctual process for me, and then it becomes more intellectual as I go through draft after draft. Dickey's Deliverance and its furry, toothy core became kind of a model for this work.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Pat Conroy on James Dickey

Pat Conroy's appreciation of James Dickey as poet, novelist and teacher in Conroy's new book, "My Reading Life," is simply magnificent. It draws on both the eulogy Conroy delivered in 1997 and the speech he made on the tenth anniversary of Dickey's death. Part of the manuscript for that talk is reproduced here:

Wild To Be Wreckage Forever

Let me now praise the American writer, James Dickey. I will make a few critical remarks about him during the course of this talk, but that is only because he is dead and I don't have to worry about him beating me up after the conference is over. It will also make me appear less sycophantic about James Dickey's achievement .... But let me open with a statement of my own passionate and indignant belief -- I do not care one goddamn thing about how James Dickey conducted his personal life. I care everything about what this man wrote on blank sheets of paper when he sat alone probing the extremities of his imagination. I don't care if James Dickey slept with a thousand women or the entire football team at Clemson or the marching band ...

For a full schedule of Conroy's readings, visit his site at: