Rocklin, CA, United States
A gazillion years ago, a friend and I were lurking and prowling in used book stores in San Diego. We separated, then when we met up again, my friend asked, 'Did you find anything good?' "A few things," I said. "But I was looking for a copy of 'Deliverance' and didn't find it." "You're not missing anything," he replied.
Among everything that's happened in my life since, that remark still stands out as one of the most seriously mistaken. Based on his advice, I sort of stopped looking for it, but when the paper copy and I finally did connect, I was astonished. "Deliverance" is an unqualified masterpiece. Now, I've read it about three times and just finished listening for the first time -- and I tell ya, the audio version is even better than the printed version. I normally listen to audiobooks when I'm doing some sort of mindless task, and many times during "Deliverance" I found that I'd just stopped what I was doing and just stood there, listening. It's totally captivating and consuming.
I suppose my friend's mistaken opinion of "Deliverance" was based on the film -- which I've now seen, too. Once. Indeed, the film is brutal and harsh -- scary, in the vicious savagery it depicts. The book stands in stark contrast -- tense? Yes. In fact, I'd be surprised if this book weren't used in writing classes, to demonstrate the proper way to build tension until it becomes almost unbearable. In the first few chapters especially, you just know something awful is going to happen -- you're just waiting for something to explode. And it does, of course -- but in the book, those terrible scenes we remember from the film take up just a few pages. By today's standards, in the book, it's not even especially violent.
What does linger in the mind is the poetry of the whole thing -- a river runs through the whole story, with Dickey's marvelous commentary on its almost ethereal beauty, its symbolism as a life force, for good or bad, and the danger it can represent.
It's also time for me to issue an apology to narrator Will Patton. The truth is, since listening -- trying to listen -- to several of the James Lee Burke books Patton has narrated, I've avoided any other books listing him as narrator. The Burke books are -- my opinion -- annoying, in that Patton sounds as though he's either drunk or half asleep or maybe both. For me, it's not a pleasant thing to listen to. But here? Oh, my. He's perfect -- none of that drugged-out sort of talk, nothing like that. Not only do I have no complaints, but I have nothing but the highest praise for his work here. Sorry 'bout that, Mr. Patton. Now I'm going to see what other books -- other than the Dave Robicheaux series -- he's narrated. Maybe that half-asleep silliness was just an affectation for those books alone.
Bottom line: if you haven't read "Deliverance" yet, you've got a treat in store for you. Forget the movie. Listen to the audio version -- marvelous, just marvelous.
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