Friday, October 10, 2008

How James Dickey Thinks the Same Things I Do, Only Before Me and Better

I am rereading what may have been my first great read. It was around 1979 or 1980. I was in an English class, and it was taught by a woman who may well have been the first true love of my life. She was young, gorgeous, and just passionate about reading and ideas. She taught me to read. She was unaware of it at the time, but that is exactly what she did.

She would come in on a Monday and talk about whatever she read over the weekend in this cool, hipster way. I wanted that world--that mindset. I would go out and find whatever she mentioned and try to read it, AND I would try to read it with the goal of having something to say. She opened my head wide. Now true, it was all mixed up with my adolescent sexuality, but that wonderful woman largely affected the way I feel about the two most important things in this world, women and books. To this day I have never been attracted to a woman since that was not brilliant.

One book she lent me was a book by James Dickey. I had seen Deliverance and had read a few poems, but I had no idea what was in store. She lent me Sorties. It is a collection of his Journal entries. It touched on everything--art, books, ideas, guitar, poetry. I was most attracted to the guitar sections. He had such a great way of describing guitar playing.

Anyway, I just picked up another copy of it, and started reading and ran across this passage where Dickey describes the death of his father. Having just gone through that myself, it struck me.

Check this out:

Long deathwatch with my father. Nothing in his wasted and loveable life has ever become him so much as when he moved close to death. It is astonishing to understand that one's father is a brave man: very brave. The only thing he worried about was me seeing him in that condition. he cannot ever understand, whether he lives or whether he dies, how much better he looked with his arms full of tubes, with one of those plastic hospital things in his nose, and the rest of it, than at any time I have ever seen him before. He was a man up against an absolute limit, and he was giving as well as he got and he was not afraid of nothing in this world or out of it. God bless that man. No matter how I came from him, I hope that it was in joy. For the end is courage.

Nice bit of writing.

Here is the cover:

And here is an amazon link:

1 comment:

The Skates said...

Very nice bit of work, and touching. I'll take your recommendation - been looking for the next book to dive into.