OPINIONSrnConfidants of Bloodrnby William Millsrn”If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”rn-Psalm 137:6rnSummer of Deliverance:rnA Memoir of Father and Sonrnby Christopher DickeyrnNew York: Simon & Schuster;rn256 pp., $24.00rnThis troubling memoir of JamesrnDickey by his son, Christopher, isrntroubling as well for me to review becausernI knew James Dickey a little, and Irngreatly admire his work. Whether all thernscenes in it are true or not—who of usrnreally knew our father and mother?—it isrnperhaps normal for an admirer to be defensivernon his behalf Let me put morernof my cards on the table: James Dickeyrnblurbed two of my books, and my wife,rnBeverly Jarrett, has published two orrnthree books about him and one by himrn(Striking In: The Early Notebooks ofrn]ames Dickey), perhaps the last bookrnpublished in his lifetime.rnBefore I had so much as heard of thernmemoir’s existence, someone called mernto say the New York Times had nm a reviewrn(by the son of a former teacher ofrnmine, incidentally) entitled “Liar andrnSon.” What the hell was going on?rnDickey had always had literary enemiesrn(poets are an especially cantankerousrnbunch at best, at worst vindictive churls),rnnot a few of them in New York, and arnpresence as powerful as his was bound tornchallenge the impotent and the secondrate,rnand even the first-rate. But this attackrnwas by one of his own children.rnThere is no denying that Dickey drankrntoo much and behaved sometimes outra-rnWilliam Mills, a novelist and poet, is therneditor of Images of Kansas City. His latestrnwork of fiction is Properties of Blood.rngeously. Many of us do. There is also littlerndoubt that for children to witnessrntheir parents quarreling is a terrifying,rntraumatic experience. Christopher’srnown son was spared this particular agonyrnby his father’s early abandonment of thernscene. Jim Dickey’s drinking was wellrndocumented long before tlie appearancernof this memoir; thus I do not see how pilingrnup stories of his drinking is usehil inrnthe pursuit of “truth.” Should one be interestedrnin such stories, however, he willrnfind a plentiful supply of them in thisrnbook.rnChristopher makes much of Jim’srnpenchant for exaggeration, for creatingrnother personae. Dickey himself had discussedrnwhat he was up to in “Barnstormingrnfor Poetry.” He admitted he had arnpublic persona and a private one—Codrnhelp the person who does not. He admittedrnthis was a problematic way to live,rnor to have to live. He exaggerated whenrnhe spoke about flying 100 missions in thernPacific: Although he had soloed andrnpassed his final check (poorly, accordingrnto him), he ultimately became a radar interceptrnofficer (according to Christopher)rnand flew, though not as a pilot,rnthirty-eight combat sorties overrnthousands of miles of enemy territoryrnand empty, hostile seas. Hernstiafed, he bombed, he acted asrnbomber escort and provided coverrnfor landing forces and convoyrnattacks. He was commissioned arnlieutenant overseas, and got fivernbronze stars for offensives in thernPhilippines, China, Borneo, andrnJapan.rnGoodness! How far from the truth thernoriginal was!rnAt one point in his memoir, ChristopherrnDickey remarks that “demythologizingrnwas becoming my obsession.” Herncandidly admits his father passed on writingrnassignments to him that his fatherrndid not want to do, thus giving him a startrnin his current trade. Christopher tellsrnabout a commission from Life to writernabout the making of the movie Deliverance,rna story that eventually was tiirnedrndown for being “too negative.” Mustrnhave demythologized too much.rnThere is an undeclared assumption inrna lot of expose journalism that merely byrnrevealing the private, a purpose is servedrnthat is laudable and moral, to say nothingrnof financial. But even if, via the policernstate or “police journalism,” a camerarnwere placed in every bedroom, everyrnbathroom, when the camera is tiirned ofiFrnand the fever of prurience has subsided.rn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn