The James Dickey Review

The annual James Dickey Review is now being published at Reinhardt, as part of our new low-residency MFA program, “Story and Place in the New South.” Our first issue is now in print or available for download to Kindle (Amazon). I’m pleased to say that I have a piece in volume 32, a review of (or as I described it, a reaction to) Dickey’s most well-known novel, Deliverance (1970), which I read over last Christmas at the suggestion of the editor, Reinhardt’s VPAA Mark Roberts. I suppose it would be in bad taste to print the whole thing, but I’ll give you a teaser here:

I was born and raised in Canada. I attended college in New England and graduate school in the Midwest. Prior to 2004, when I was 33 and accepted a job at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia, I had spent very little time in the American South – less than a month in total, over the course of a few road trips. Just prior to our move, and to celebrate it, my wife and I watched Gone with the Wind, thinking that it might be a good idea to acquaint ourselves with this classic of Southern identity. It never occurred to me to watch Deliverance – even though Waleska is in the foothills of Appalachia and that movie is probably more pertinent to this particular milieu.

I was vaguely aware of Deliverance. Who hasn’t heard the “dueling banjos” duet? A college friend of mine liked to yell “squeeeal like a pig!” at random times, and another had a T-shirt that read “paddle faster – I hear banjo music!” I thought that I should see the film at some point, not only because of its supposed relevance to north Georgia, but because it is an important film as such, up there with such seventies gems as Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, and Taxi Driver. But around the time I had kids my movie watching declined precipitously and has not really recovered.

(If anything was holding me back, though, it was my suspicion that Deliverance was just as distorted as Gone with the Wind, but from the opposite point of view. Like Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, would Deliverance be a voyeuristic depiction of the South for the titillation of blue-state Americans? I’ve grown quite fond of Georgia, and do not care for this sort of thing. “That movie set back our image by fifty years,” claims a former student of mine.)

I still have not seen the film. But in honor of Reinhardt’s acquisition of the James Dickey Review, I have now read the book. And I’m pleased to read that at least the original text was not a gratuitously negative portrayal of Appalachia.

Buy the issue to read the rest!