Monday, September 13, 2010

Deliverance Part 2

I seemed to think that the prose poem type style employed in this book was big at the time. What else could I have been thinking of? John Gardner's Grendel? Margaret Drabble's The Waterfall? The works of Donald Barthelme? It does seem to be characteristic of the kind of writing that was praised in university writing programs of the period, the better examples of which I have begun to find more tolerable in recent years.

The woods in the north are not as scary as what we find in this book, though judging by my trip to the Blue Ridge and Smokies this summer, even much of Appalachia has largely been tamed and brought within the pale of semi-respectable civilization.

Page 28, some married, mature adult sex talk (My initial response was 'yucky'). "I knelt and entered her, and her buttocks rose and fell. 'Oh,' she said, 'oh yes.'" Hey, I'm sure he did. Good for him.

On page 37, a reminiscence of vomiting after the office Christmas party. One thing I am truly jealous of the 60s for is that it had awesome Christmas parties, both at the office and in private homes, the like of which seem unlikely to return before I am too far gone into my dotage to enjoy them any longer.

These guys really are suburban if they can't recognize different kinds of trees, never see deer, and so on. Of course at this time, and throughout my earlier childhood certainly, one did not see nearly as many animals out by the highway as one does today. Deer especially, though one occasionally saw them in the country, but turkeys, skunks, foxes, porcupines, I don't recall ever seeing at all until I was in my twenties at least, and now they seem to be quite numerous even in well-populated areas.

P. 69: "He went down the other side as I came up, feeling dirt on my hands for the first time in years." This has to be an exaggeration. His wife never wanted him to dig or pull up any roots or trees in the backyard?

On page 76 there is a discussion of plastic, how it does not decompose and go back to its elements. Plastic is a good example of a evil that people at the time when it began its ascendence recognized and denounced almost at once, and of which everyone was more or less powerless to stop the proliferation anyway. Was much in the collective thought of the era.

What is the word for what this story is trying to be? A fable? It is trying to do the kind of thing I really like, which is to write about something quite implausible in such a way that it seems, or becomes for the time anyway, as believable and 'real' as anything else one's mind has encountered, but I don't think it quite makes it.

The kind of male-bonding that is a big part of this book is not really done much anymore, at least among urban/overcivilized types, of which group I am kind of a member. Personally I would prefer the Mr Chips style male bonding holiday, where one discusses theories of art or geological discoveries with a mental and social equal rather than carrying weapons and fighting with either wild animals or savage men, though it looks like neither is very likely to happen anytime soon.

The theme of the book, I venture, is that we should always assume trouble. It is the normal condition of life. We have let our guard down in comfortable modern life--life is supposed to be fairly horrible a good deal of the time, and we try to skirt that at our own peril.

This is definitely a pre-cell phone adventure.

The narrator, on the unfortunate friend who got raped, after the fact: "None of this was his fault, but he felt tainted to me. I remembered how he had looked over the log, how willing to let anything be done to him, and how high his voice was when he screamed." Yes Abby, we're a long way from Wordsworth now.

Is the book optimistic about human capability even when the proper manly spirit and knowledge have atrophied? I think it is on the fence.

I wa surprised at the brevity of the famous scene. The rest of the plot--about 150 pages--seems dictated by necessities that are predictable based on the length of the book.

Beholding (as opposed to seeing) the river is presented as having some kind of relevance to life. Nature in this book is always presented as being rather alien to the most refined human qualities. On page 171 alone it is described as "blank", "mindless", "icy" and "uncomprehending". It offers no guidance to a man. Compare this with some lines from John Denham on the Thames River, written in 1655:

"O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme!
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full."

This is culturally, I think, a more serious and useful way of engaging with nature.

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