]ames Dickey and William Mills at Dickey’s Columbia, South Carolina home, 1984.rnone still has the burden of meaning, ofrninterpretation, to contend with. Any Jewrnor Roman walking on the road from Calvar)’rncould have given a passerby the detailsrnof the recent gory execution of threerncriminals, but what was the meaning ofrnthe event?rnChristopher Dickey repeats the wellknownrnwords of Monroe Spears to his father:rnWlien writing a poem, “no artist isrnbound by the truth.” Of course, betweenrnhvo intelligent and educated men, it wasrnunderstood that “truth” used in this wayrnmeant a literal unfolding of the eventsrnthat a poem might be based on, butrnthat the poem itself could create anotherrnkind of “truth.” In discussing the poemrn”String,” Jim explained to his son that hernhad made up certain of the eents.rnChristopher notes that his father thenrnsaid, “But you’re a journalist. So therntruth is important.” Christopher replies,rn”hi journalism it is.” His father, he said,rn”considered that proposition for a time,rnas if waiting for more or better air.” WhatrnJames Dickey might have been waitingrnfor was his son’s acknowledgment thatrnthe “made-up” poem has its own importantrntruth. From the context, however,rnthe reader is not led to conclude that thernmemoirist understands this.rnInterestingK’, Christopher tells howrnhis father did string tricks like Jacob’srnLadder for him when he was a child.rnLike most kids, the son wanted to knowrnhow it was “reallv done.” “Teach me torndo it.” Jim agreed to show him, addingrnthat “the secrets of this magic had to bernkept just between us.” (If this were anrnopera, we would hear the basses and cellosrnpresaging a dark final act.) On severalrnoccasions, the grown son still seems tornmiss the point of how poetry is made.rnConcerning the incident from whichrn”The Bee “—where the father in the poemrnhas to dash to save his son—was developed,rnChristopher remarks that his fatherrnjust “took a couple of steps, reachedrnout, and grabbed Kevin to keep himrnfrom backing into traffic. That was allrnthat happened.” He seems to fault his fatherrnfor not writing about the time inrnItaly when he “really had risked his life tornsave his son.”rnSummer of Deliverance has some strikingrninconsistencies. Take, for example,rnthis: “My fither’s ideas of nature, for allrnthat he wrote about it, were mostly imaginedrnfrom movies safely watched in airconditionedrntheaters.” This is a real shotrnat the poet who wrote so deeply about thernnatural worid. First off, the son was notrnborn until his father was 28 years old,rnand what Jim did for the next five or sixrnyears would be mostly unknown to him,rntoo. James Dickey’s father was a foxrnhunter, and there seems little doubt thatrnhis son knew something about ruralrnGeorgia. Later in the book, Jim takesrnChristopher camping, telling him “hernhad wanted to give me a little somethingrnof what his father had given him.” Aboutrnthis camping trip, Christopher feelsrncompelled to say (I assume as an adult),rn”My father knew nothing about camping.”rnLater, about Jim’s archer)’ practice,rnhe says, “He just preferred being in thernwoods.”rnOnly four pages later, Christopher isrnrelating the canoe accident his fatherrnand his friends had.rnThey’d busted up the canoe in arnstretch of rapids on the Coosawattee,rna stretch of river they were nowayrnready for in a deep, narrowrngorge, and AI, banged up badly onrnthe rocks, almost drowned. Therncanoe had wedged up against him,rnfilling with water, crushing himrnwith the weight of the river. Withrnall his strength and with all my father’srnstrength prying and pushing,rnhe’d only just slipped free.rnAfter this incident, which occurred inrnGeorgia, the Dickeys moved to Oregonrnwhere Christopher says, “We still wentrncamping together. . . . We’d drive deeprninto the mountain forests, which were sornmuch bigger and wilder than anythingrnwe’d seen in the Appalachians. . . . Elkrnwandered in the woods near our camps,rnand bear were close by, too.” (An airconditionedrntheater?)rnSuch inconsistencies and contradictionsrnoccur throughout, and I havernthe feeling that Christopher Dickey, thernadult author of this memoir, has not yetrncompleted his journey of reconciliation.rnI’he book is very much the story of ChristopherrnDickey—maybe more, even,rnthan that of his father, who lends it whateverrninterest it might have. Long-timernstudents of James Dickey will not learnrnmuch that is new or essential for imderstandingrnDickey’s art. They will learnrnsomething about one of his children,rnhowever. Here is a start: “My childhoodrnwas an adventure story, not a horrorrnshow. My father and mother had adoredrnand spoiled me.” Christopher was anrnonly child for seven years. He was read tornoften by his father. He writes about howrnJim “wanted to share” the magic of thernbeach with Kevin, the younger son, andrndid.rnThe difficulty of providing for hisrnfamily was not obvious to his sons, yetrnDickey worked for an advertising agencyrnduring the lean years and worked longrnhours at night on his poetry. Christopher’srnchildhood was not haunted by talkrnof poverty, or the reality of it. When Jimrnmade money, he sent his son to Francernto school, whereupon his son withdrew,rncame back to the States, and marriedrnJANUARY 1999/27rnrnrn