by James Dickey
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Deliverance by James Dickey

“You're hooked, you feel every cut, grope up every cliff, swallow water with every spill of the canoe, sweat with every draw of the bowstring. Wholly absorbing [and] dramatic.”—Harper's Magazine

The setting is the Georgia wilderness, where the states most remote white-water river awaits. In the thundering froth of that river, in its echoing stone canyons, four men on a canoe trip discover a freedom and exhilaration beyond compare. And then, in a moment of horror, the adventure turns into a struggle for survival as one man becomes a human hunter who is offered his own harrowing deliverance.

Praise for Deliverance

“Once read, never forgotten.”—Newport News Daily Press

“A tour de force . . . How a man acts when shot by an arrow, what it feels like to scale a cliff or to capsize, the ironic psychology of fear: these things are conveyed with remarkable descriptive writing.”The New Republic

“Freshly and intensely alive . . . with questions that haunt modern urban man.”Southern Review

“A fine and honest book that hits the reader's mind with the sting of a baseball just caught in the hand.”The Nation

“[James Dickey's] language has descriptive power not often matched in contemporary American writing.”Time

“A harrowing trip few readers will forget.”Asheville Citizen-Times

"A novel that will curl your toes . . . Dickey's canoe rides to the limits of dramatic tension."New York Times Book Review 

"A brilliant and breathtaking adventure."The New Yorker

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385313872
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/1994
Series: Modern Library 100 Best Novels Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 174,582
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

James Dickey was born in Atlanta. One of America's best known poets and a winner of the National Book Award for Buckdancer's Choice, he is the author of the National bestseller To The White Sea, a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Carolina Professor and Poet-in-Residence at the university of South Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

THERE WAS SOMETHING about me that usually kept me from dreaming, or maybe kept me from remembering what I had dreamed; I was either awake or dead, and I always came back slowly. I had the feeling that if it were perfectly quiet, if I could hear nothing, I would never wake up. Something in the world had to pull me back, for every night I went down deep, and if I had any sensation during sleep, it was of going deeper and deeper, trying to reach a point, a line or border.
This time the wind woke me, and I dragged upward and tried, with the instinct of survival, to get clear of where I had been, one more time. I was used to hearing Martha’s breath bring me back, for she breathed heavily, but this time it was the wind. First the wind by itself and then the wind ringing a little set of metal figures on strings that Martha had put out on the patio — bronze figures of birds surrounding an owl which, because of a long wind vane attached to him, moved when the air moved and touched the others, making a chiming sound something like the one made by the Chinese glass wind-bells that everybody used to have in the thirties, when I was growing up. It was a small, inconstant sound, a lovely sound, I always thought, and as I came up from the sleep-dark to the real dark of the room, I had an idea that it might evoke something, and I lay with the room becoming actual around me, in the dark, beside my wife, in a body.
I reached for Martha, as I always did, and her head stirred under the towel she wore at night. I held her shoulder lightly, and it was then I remembered I was going with Lewis. The routine I was used to pulled at me, but something in me rose daringly above it, full of fear and feeling weak and incompetent but excited. I took Martha in my arms to see if she would try to get away and back to sleep, or come to me for warmth, and then go back.
She was a thin girl whom I had married fifteen years before; she had been working as a surgical nurse. The fact that she might or might not be pretty did not occur to me at all, though friends, without great enthusiasm or conviction, used to tell me she was. But the question of beauty, beyond certain very obvious considerations, never really interested me in women; what I looked for and felt for was the spark, the absolutely personal connection, and when I found a genuine form of it, small but steady, I had married it. There was nothing to regret about this, and I didn’t regret it. She was a good wife and a good companion, a little tough, but with a toughness that got things done. She was genuinely proud of my being vice-president of a company, and she insisted on believing that I had talent as an artist, though I had none. I was a mechanic of the graphic arts, and when I could get the problem to appear mechanical to me, and not the result of inspiration, I could do something with it. On this principle I had done a few big collage-things for the living room, made from torn-up posters, movie magazines, sports headlines and the like. And that, as far as art was concerned, was it. Remembering these, I thought that it might be that Martha cared for them not so much because I had done them, but because they represented some side of me she didn’t know. But it was a wrong faith on her part, and, though I never told her how I felt, I never encouraged it. I drew on her, and she slid to me.
“What time is it?” she said.
“Six,” I said, looking at the frail hands of the clock by the bed as they pulsed and glowed. “Lewis is coming by at a little before six-thirty.”
“What do you have to do to get ready?” she asked.
“Not much. Just throw on my old nylon flying suit and put on some tennis shoes. And, when Lewis comes, load up the back of his car with my stuff. There isn’t much, but I’ve got it all ready. I piled it out in the living room after you went to bed.”
“Do you really want to go, baby?”
“It’s not something I’m dying to do,” I said. “And I won’t die if I don’t do it. But the studio is really bugging me. I had a terrible time yesterday, until I got down to doing some work. It seemed like everything just went right by me, nothing mattered at all. I couldn’t have cared less about anything or anybody. If going up in the woods with Lewis does something about that feeling, I’m for it.”
“Is it my fault?”
“Lord, no,” I said, but it partly was, just as it’s any woman’s fault who represents normalcy.
“I wish you didn’t have to go off like this. I mean, didn’t want to. I wish there was something I could do.”
“There is.”
“Have we got time?”
“We’ll make time. There’s nothing Lewis has to offer that matters all that much. He can wait. I don’t feel like I can.”
We lay entangled like lovers.
“Lie on your back,” she said.
She had great hands; they knew me. There was something about the residue of the nursing in her that turned me on: the practical approach to sex, the very deliberate and frank actions that give pleasure to people. The blood in me fell and began to rise in the dark, moving with her hands and the slight cracking of the lubricant. Martha put a pillow in the middle of the bed, threw back the covers with a windy motion and turned facedown on the pillow. I knelt and entered her, and her buttocks rose and fell. “Oh,” she said. “Oh yes.”
It was the heat of another person around me, the moving heat, that brought the image up. The girl from the studio threw back her hair and clasped her breast, and in the center of Martha’s heaving and expertly working back, the gold eye shone, not with the practicality of sex, so necessary to its survival, but the promise of it that promised other things, another life, deliverance.

Customer Reviews

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Deliverance 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have got to be one of the few people who have not seen Deliverance, the movie. I bought the book (because I would rather read the book than see the movie) and found the book amazingly well written and parts of it were so intense that I found myself holding my breath while reading them. Very, very good book. I saw the movie a few days after finishing the book and was very disappointed. The movie did not translate the intensity of the story. Parts of seemed over-acted, overly dramatic, and just plain silly. The screenplay, while true to the actions of the book, left out much of the character development and revealing conversations between the men. I will read the book again many times, I'm sure, but I will never watch that movie again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the movie, so I decided to read the book. The characters are not as well defined up front, but that changes as the book goes on. The movie didn't seem to settle on a clear message, but the book does. Ed's journey is by far more obvious and primal. The book focuses more on who Ed has to become and his relationship with the river. I liked the concept and symbolism, and I enjoyed the story. Dickey is a poet, and so his descriptions are deep and illuminating. However, he goes into so much detail about the wilderness over and over that it became a slog for me at times. I ended up skimming paragraphs to get to something that mattered. Although from all of the meticulous description, I did understand how Ed was changing, and that was important. The ending picked up quite a bit, and the interaction with the police is more detailed and interesting than in the movie. To say these guys were lucky is an understatement. Favorite line (I don't know why really. I guess it just hit me right): 'He wore his hat at the prescribed country tilt.' And When Ed is talking to the Sheriff, the sheriff compliments him (I won't say more), and this is very cool because it has a double meaning for the reader. Loved that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. I guess he had to drag out some parts , or book would of been a short story. A pleasant surprise was the book was not on line with the movie as far as the way the men thought about each other even as far as thinking about killing one of them. If you like the movie read the book.
diezelUW More than 1 year ago
I did not enjoy this book. I also thought that there are much better stories with descriptive scenery and adventure. I read true crime so it was not the killing or the lying it was the nature of how he made a group of people look. I disliked the movie and the book was no better.
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What will you do if you go to a enjoyable journey that turns to a dangerous one? This book is called "Deliverance." The characters were Drew, Lewis, and Bobby. They were taking a canoe trip along a Georgia river. This entire story takes place on Aintry where the characters wanted to have an incredible journey, but this was unexpected for them. Their situation makes to read it without stop wondering what is going to happen. It also makes to imagine the entire story as a real life. I felt sad by the way they faced their problems that they just wanted to have an escape. They felt hopelessness, anger, and fear. In the other hand, this story is kind of masculine strength. In one part, they chose the best way they could do to survive. So they just wanted liberation after been in a hard situation. I think if the survivers would like to take another trip, they will think in something as a tragedy, otherwise, they will probably enjoy it but they are going to have their issue in mind anyways. It happens in some cases when you plan to have an entertainment, but you get the opposite way. I really liked this book; actually I like to read survival books. I would like to recommend this book as a good one to read for all those people who like to read hazardous books. I wonder if you come out with the same question as mine, "What Will I Do if that Happens to Me?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book absolutley blew me away! I was fascinated by the tale of four normal men who rise above their indoorsy, urban backgrounds to accomplish incredible things in the name of survival. The suspense from page to page was extremely gripping, and i especially enjoyed how real Dickey's characters became. The reader watched Ed develop into a formidable outdoorsmen, and was deeply inside his head, feeling his fears and triumphs. Dickey's writing was almost poetic in the way it was so descriptive, that i felt like i was scaling the walls of the gorge along with Ed, grasping for handholds and contemplating death. I would reccomend this novel to anyone looking for an exciting read, which keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, completly lost in the intensity of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three weekend warriors find themselves in the middle of nowhere engaged in a violent game of cat and mouse with the resident hillbillies. If that sounded interesting, Deliverance is a must read. The tale unfolds as 4 urbanites set out on a weekend canoe trip on a river soon to be decimated by a dam. Their trip starts out innocent enough, however, soon their unwelcome intrusion on hillbilly property and attempts at poaching deer anger the locals. The city folk find themselves pitted head to head with the hillbillies in a terrifying battle. Both sides 'hunt' each other and many end up dead in the name of survival. I highly recommend this bone-chilling novel to all who enjoy suspense and the outdoors; it is sure to leave you wondering just what can happen when you venture away from home.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful and gut-wrenching book. My stomach actually turned during the most horrifying parts, and horrifying they were, not to mention totally believable. I have heard people talk about how it 'really does follow the movie accurately,' but in fact, obviously, the book came first. I read the book and then watched the movie, and was quite surprised to see that James Dickey wrote the screenplay because so much of his story and struggle is lost in the film version. The movie is good, but no where near the book. To anyone who reads this: read the book first!! You will not regret it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Be ready for anything is what this is truly about. Ready to be surrounded by different outer limits, and having no control over your fate or destiny. deliverance is a good book, alot better then the movie, but make sure you are capable of handling twisted, deep meaningful text.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Arguably one of the most powerful short novels of the twentieth century, Deliverance is even more fascinating as it is read by James Dickey. The emotions written on the page are magnified by the author as he reads his work brilliantly. Read the book, then hear the author read it. You'll be glad you did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A group of four business men head off to go canoeing on a river deep in the South, for a weekend getaway. Every thing is going as planned until they run in to some crazy locals in the middle of their trip. The situation flips 360 degrees in a matter of minutes. Can the city folk out fox the rednecks of the South?

James Dickey's writing style combines the essence of outdoors with the reality of life. This is a book that readers won't want to put down. A definite thriller to keep readers up all night wondering what is going to happen next.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I personally did not injoy this book. To me all this book did was stretch out a few short parts over pages and pages for no reason. It seems that James Dickey's only goal was to make what could have been a short story into a novel, not to make it enjoyable. The summery makes you think you're going on an adventure with a bunch of kids right out of college and one of them turns on the others and kills them. But in reallity, its a bunch of middle age guys that are trying to hunt in the forsest but run into some mountain men and get chased by them. If anyone going into 11th grade and is thinking of reading this book for their summer reading, DON'T. It would be better if you read any of the other books on the list.
rogerreads More than 1 year ago
I did n9ot receiv e fre shipping