Synopses & Reviews
Summer of Deliverance
is a powerful and moving memoir of anger, love, and reconciliation between a son and his father; between the journalist Christopher Dickey and the renowned poet and novelist James Dickey.
Chris, best known for his reporting on wars around the world, takes us back to his childhood in his father's universe of Southern intellectuals and backwoods rednecks, of night-fighter pilots in the Pacific, poets in Paris, and martini-drinking ad men in Atlanta. And to the summer of 1971, when James Dickey's first novel, Deliverance, was made into a movie.
That tale of soft suburbanites forced to kill or be killed along the rushing white waters of a wild Georgia river was a huge success, and Jim Dickey, who played the sheriff in the movie, became an instant star. But it was also in that summer that the long, slow process of destruction -- of himself and of his family -- became clear. Poetry gave way to performance, and genius faded behind an alcoholic haze. Jim Dickey's world shrank to Columbia, South Carolina, where he taught at the university. His friends drifted, or were driven, away. So too his sons.
For nearly twenty years after his mother drank herself to death in 1976, Christopher hardly saw his father. When they met, it was in passing and on neutral territory -- at a coffee shop at La Guardia Airport, at the university's faculty club. Always, Jim would be drunk. Chris had heard accounts of the horrors in his father's house: an alcoholic second wife, a little daughter forced to rely on her wits and will to survive. But Chris believed that there was nothing he could do about the decisions his father made.
Then, in the summer of 1994, pushed by his own wife, Chris went back to South Carolina, back to his mother's grave. He steeled himself against all the madness he knew still lingered there, but hoped that by reuniting with his father he would find what was missing in himself. He discovered he had been right about the horrors of his father's life, but he also found a blood tie that could not be broken, a need for kinship that had to be satisfied. A few months later, as Jim Dickey lay in a hospital near death with liver disease, Chris and his brother, Kevin, and the thirteen-year-old sister they barely knew entered into a conspiracy to save him. And they succeeded.
During the last two years of his life, Jim Dickey was physically shrunken and short of breath, but sober. He spoke, as he had not for years, with consistent, dazzling lucidity. He turned his depleting energy to his poetry and breathed new life into it. His wife, who had fought her own terrible battle with depression, slowly found her independence, while his daughter thrived in school. And Chris, whether on long drives with his father through the Carolina flatlands to the coast or sitting with him in the house in Columbia amidst the books, bows, guitars, and manuscripts, found in Jim Dickey's clear-eyed love the father he had missed for so long.
Drawing on letters, notebooks, diaries, and Chris's explicit conversations with his father about what happened between them, Summer of Deliverance is a superbly crafted memoir of the corrosive effects of fame and an inspiring celebration of love between father and son.
About the Author
Christopher Dickey is Newsweek's Bureau Chief in Paris and its former Bureau Chief in Cairo. He is the author of two previous nonfiction books, With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua and Expats: Travels in Arabia, from Tripoli to Teheran, and a novel, Innocent Blood.
Table of Contents
The Color of Rust
The Two-Car Garage
Bring Home the Coke
The Night Pool
At the River
The Cutting Room
The Canoe Beneath the Hammock
The Sudanese Dagger
The Sea and Old Men
FATHER AND SON
The Nightmare Life in Death
Walls of Books