Believe it or not, I’ve never seen Deliverance. Additionally, at the risk of sounding completely dopey, I didn’t know until recently that the film was based upon the novel of the same name. Recently, Keith purchased stacks of new books; when I mentioned that I needed a new book to read, it was Deliverance that he tossed my way. All I knew of the story was this: the characters encounter crazy hill country people; terrorizing and torture ensures. I was interested to learn how right — or wrong — my cobbled-together plot was.
It turned out I was partially right.
Ed Gendry and his three buddies Lewis, Bobby and Drew take a weekend canoe jaunt down the rapids of Georgia’s Cahulawassee River; to say that they are woefully unprepared for their expedition would be an understatement of the most extreme proportion. Firstly, only Ed and Lewis have any sort of experience with camping, canoeing and roughing it. After a picturesque handful of scenes we learn about the extent of Lewis’s gung-ho attitude towards outdoors living and survival, as well as Ed’s vague sort of ennui with his life. Then, quite literally out of the blue, Ed and Bobby make a chance encounter with a pair of aforementioned crazy hill country people. Terrorizing and torture ensues.
Unfortunately I’m unable to really say much more without giving it all away; I will mention that, for a while, Deliverance reminded me of the film The Descent, which is to some extent about a group of adventure-seeking people who soon find themselves utterly out of their depths. To put it mildly, however, The Descent takes things in a quite a difference direction than Deliverance.
Back to the novel… I couldn’t help but think that it felt a bit dated. Published in 1970, the writing is solidly evocative of that era. Does that mean it’s not any good? Of course not. Malaise and unhappiness are universal motifs; Dickey also writes about change, and how we as people deal with it. After all, Ed, Lewis, Bobby and Drew originally take to the Cahulawassee River because it is scheduled to be dammed and flooded, and the area to be built up into a residential community. Is that not something we are dealing with still? of Via its thematic elements, Dickey and Deliverance are able to captures something significant, even if it’s a time long gone.