Corso and Dickey
- Gregory Corso was a junkie but James Dickey was a liar. Dickey was also
an alcoholic, but I've known lots of alcoholic writers. My first father-
in-law, for instance, was a well-paid Hollywood hack who would swig
martinis all day, the way sportive TriBeCa lasses do their Poland
Spring. But Dickey told tall tales calculated to enhance his literary
career. Prompted in 1972 by John Unterecker, I flew down to Columbia,
S.C., to interview Dickey. After the interview Dickey told me one jaw-
dropping anecdote after another. Sample: he left New York after a bar
fight in which he, Dickey, was forced to kill, with a knife,
a "Negro." But then I reported these stories to my wife back in New
York. And Erika said, "Bullshit!" When the fat biography, James
Dickey: The World as Lie, appeared, I read the first ten pages, and
knew Erika was right. Lately however the book has been remaindered, and
I've been reading it more thoroughly. The author attempts objectivity
but loathes Dickey. I had actually liked Dickey's poetry up to the
late '60s. And who can resist the novel and film Deliverance? But as I
read The World as Lie, every line of Dickey nauseates.
- In many ways Corso comes off comparatively clean when you compare him to a
lot of other poets whose sly evil slowly seeps to the surface.
When I was in Cambridge I started to read from the middle of the Dickey
biography and it said that Dickey threatened his own son with
excommunication unless he wrote in middle age about Dickey's latest book for
the New York Times. Dickey's son caved in and did so, and he was for a
little while longer in Dickey's good graces. I couldn't believe it. The
book is cheap -- 4.95 or something.
Dickey must have had a terrible viewpoint -- the dog vs. dog world of
absolute monstrousness described in Deliverance would make anyone into an
I prefer P.G. Wodehouse. The worst that can happen in his books is that
somebody's bed gets short-sheeted. There are no deaths that take place
after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 even though he wrote 125 books (hard to
count them all as he recycled quite a bit). And Wodehouse was a nice man
who opened a canine infirmary in Montauk with his royalities. All the slime
about him being a Nazi was just the usual communist smear tactic and has no
reality whatsoever according to the book Wodehouse at War.
People still read Wodehouse in droves. Almost all of the books are in print
and or about to be reissued, and there are Wodehouse societies in about a
hundred countries. There's not one in Borneo as far I know, though. It
would be fun to start one in Borneo. I'd feel a lot safer if Osama Bin
Laden would read one or two books with Jeeves in the title.
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