Friday, May 22, 2009

You gotta purdy mouth: I just watched Deliverance at Netflix. If you haven't seen it, you've got to. What a treat. I enjoyed it so much, I didn't even mind that they demonize hillbillies. Now, I need to read the book by 1966-68 Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress, James Dickey. (He plays the sheriff). I am usually bored by action movies, but not if they're intelligent like this one. And it's quite beautiful as well (except for the hillbillies, of course).


Anonymous said...

You must be quite young, Ron (comparatively speaking!).

Yes, it's a powerful movie.

Question: do you think HW would produce that movie today or would it not pass their pc muster?

ironrailsironweights said...

It's a reasonable guess that hardly anyone who's ever seen the movie is going to forget the "squeal like a pig" scene :)


Jokah Macpherson said...

Squeeeeal like a piggy!

Jim Bowery said...

And the moral of the story is...

Black Sea said...

The book is far better than the movie. Dickey had a remarkable gift for language. He was offered the opportunity to play the role of sheriff largely as a sop to his ego, because he kept intruding on the shooting of the film, making all sort of impractical or unworkable suggestions to John Boorman, the director. Dickey's son, the journalist Christopher Dickey, has written extensively, and somewhat harrowingly, about what it was like growning up with his father (Chris Dickey was present at the shooting of the film).

I spent quite a lot of time in the 1970s camping and weekending in the N. Georgia mountains, both with my family and with friends. The people who lived up there had quite mixed feelings about the film. It had brought their region a good bit of notoriety, and well as an influx of money and tourism.
No, the people who lived there bore no resemblance to redneck sodomists in the film (I realize you probably know that already), and yes, the region is beautiful, sometimes eerily so.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't seen it Ron, there is a beautiful canadian movie called "Black Robe" that takes a decidedly unPC view of Indians at the time of North America's discovery--its about a missionary travelling to his mission. the beauty of the landscape is breathtaking and the very honest and non anti white themes of the movie are interesting. would not be made in america.

Jason said...

As I understand it, he wrote the book after a real life canoeing trip gone bad. Except in real life, the hillbillies rescued him. And for their trouble he writes a book that portrays them as inbred rapists.

Bet that was the last time they ever fished a city-slicker out of the rapids.

Deliverance is right up there with Rabbit Proof Fence for character assassination on film.

Black Sea said...

Dickey used to go canoeing in the rivers of N. Georgia with friends he knew while he was working in advertising in Atlanta. I've never heard the part before about one of the trips going bad and he and his friends being rescued by the locals.

If, by chance, Dickey himself propogated that story, it's useful to remember that he lied about himself and his exploits all of the time, without apology. The man loved to make stuff up and pass it off as personal experience.

Anonymous said...

"The man loved to make stuff up and pass it off as personal experience."

You know, this is way OT, but funny you said this because I have known a couple of people who do this; one is a great person in every other way so lately I've been trying to find reading material on the phenomenon called pseudologia fantastica (or mythomania), one of the more interesting psychological behaviors and one of the least understood. Material is difficult to find and one reason is that such people rarely seek help, thus rarely get studied.

There is great confusion about the terms "compulsive liar" vs. "pathological liar" (with many experts not feeling there is an established distinction).

People often associate repeated lying or storytelling with sociopathy, but while a sociopath is often good at lying, many people who are NOT sociopathic are repeated storytellers. They can't seem to control their lying even though it causes problems for them.

There's the question of whether a garden variety bull shit artist is different from the pseudologue, who may (and I stress the "may") actually be like a 5 year old kid, who, as he is in the midst of telling the story, kind of believes it.

A brain scan showed people prone to lying have more white matter in comparison to grey matter than "ordinary people" and that this may account for quick connections between words which leads to their stories. Further research is planned.

Something's gotta explain Joe Biden!

No kidding here--I followed Biden since his run for the Presidency in 1988. People who know him really do love him, but the guy is a pseudologue. The average person who may know him just thinks of him as a braggart, a bull-shit artist, but that's because the average person has never heard of pseudologia fantastica.

He is a living example of it, and for the life of me, I couldn't believe it when Obama picked him. It just shows the vetting his people did of Biden was horrible.

Jim Bowery said...

Black Sea writes: If, by chance, Dickey himself propogated that story, it's useful to remember that he lied about himself and his exploits all of the time, without apology. Yeah, you wouldn't want to get the wrong idea about hillbillies.

Black Sea said...

I'm not sure what the point of Jim Bowery's comment was, but anyway . . . Dickey wrote about--and practiced extensively --what he termed "the creative possibility of the lie."

I mentioned this because I had never heard the anecdote before about Dickey and his friends having been rescued by "hillbillies," (not a term muxh used in N. Georgia, by the way). That's not to say that it isn't true; I don't know one way or another. But it is possible that Dickey, who otherwise expressed considerable regard for the people of southern Appalachia, might have tossed out that story in converation or an interview, and given his tendency to fabricate, such statements simply can't be taken at face value. Some were true, some were not.

I have considerable regard for Dickey's talents as a poet and novelist, but, like many writers, the guy lied all the time, on purpose, without apology, and sometimes to the detriment or embarrasment of his own family, as his son and others have detailed. I'd be happy to provide examples, if anybody cares one way or another.

Anonymous said...

"And the moral of the story is..."

Don't go on canoe trips.

Anonymous said...

"... but like many writers, the guy lied all the time, on purpose, without apology, and sometimes to the detriment or embarrasment of his own family, as his son and others have detailed. I'd be happy to provide examples, if anybody cares one way or another."

Weird. The man I know well who does this is a performer, another creative type. I think he grew up as a kid making up stories and at some point may have escaped into those stories. He's a wonderful, giving person, very, very genuine in all other ways. His family too has been put in an awkward place again and again. He's the reason I've been researching the phenomenon, but it's hard to find much scientific literature on it.

As for Dickey, yes, please give an example or two and any insights you have into why he did this. You said he actually wrote of the "creative possibility of the lie"? Can you summarize what he said about it? Sounds as if he was actually admitting to his proclivity, right?

Black Sea said...

When Dickey was a student at Vanderbilt, he had an English professor, Monroe Spear, who encouraged Dickey in all sorts of writing, both critical and creative (Dickey was quite an astute, and sometimes fairly caustic, literary critic). Anyway, Dickey showed Spears one of his poems, and Spears said that the poem would have been better if thus and such happened. Dickey replied, "but that's not the way it happened," to which Spears then said, "Yes, but that's the way it SHOULD have happened." Dickey claimed that this was when it first became clear to him that writing was not about recounting a literal version of the truth, but rather about creating the best, most compelling, version of "the truth," not an uncommon literay approach, of course, and completely understandable within the realm of literature.

Why did he do so in his personal life as well? Part of it was probably sheer ego. Dickey appealled to a very American sensibility regarding wiriters, in that he could plausibly present himself as a rugged, masculine man of action and passion, who also happened to have a decided literary gift. Dickey played football in college, was an aviator in the Second World War, had been fairly succesful in advertising, and devoted a lot of energy to chasing tail. It's no surprise that, by the standards of poetry, he became a celebrity. In order to enhance that reputation, he, well, enhanced the truth as well. Possibly, his background in advertising played a role. He had been a backup player for one season on the JV team at Clemson. By middle age, he had been a football star. He claimed to have been a fighter pilot in the Pacific. Actually, after washing out of flight school, he became a navigator on a P-38. In both of these incidents, although there was nothing particularly shameful about the truth, he felt the need to jazz it up some, to raise the "hero" quotient, as it were.

Some of his lies were, in a way, creepier or less easily explicable. He told his oldest son that, during the war, he'd married an Australian woman, who had subsequently died. Christopher, the son, found this story rather disturbing, and in adulthood tried to determine who the woman had been, only to discover that there never had been any such first wife. Dickey also claimed, at various times, to have fathered illigitimate children ( a favorite fantasy of his), but there is no evidence that any such offspring ever existed. He once claimed in an interview that in chldhood, he was so poor that his family "didn't have a pot to piss in." In fact, he grew up in a grand home more or less across the street from the Governor's mansion.

Dickey liked to quote someone, a French writer, I believe, who wrote that there lies at the heart of existence the principle of insufficency. I think that, on some fundamental level, Dickey smply felt that literal, day to day reality, was a combination of tedium and inconsequence, and that he would, through imagination, create a better truth. Finally, if you examine Dickey's work, you will quickly see that aging would take an enormous psychological toll on him, indeed, he wrote in his journals rather piercingly about the horrors of middle age. I suspect that this dissatisfaction fueled his fantasies, along with the voluminous amounts of alcohol which he consumed almost all of his adult life, right up to the point where his liver condition made it clear to him that if he drank any further, it would kill him. Somewhat ironically, although he'd drunk himself into a life-threating state, it was fibrosis of the lungs that killed him in the end.

Anyhow, if you want more information about his life, you can go to my blog, and email me from there. I doubt that most of Ron's readers are all that interested in this level of detail about Dickey's life.

Oh, one more thing. Charlie Rose interviewed Chris Dickey about a book Chris wrote, "Summer of Deliverance" recounting his relationship with his father. You can access the video from the Charlie Rose website. He discusses the strengths and flaws of his father's character in some detail.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the summary. It sounds as if the booze fueled a lot of the lying.

I think I'll read Chris' book.