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In Defense of James Dickey

An unfortunate narrative infection has festered and erupted among many academics, writers ( especially less than exceptional poets ), and also others who proclaim a close relationship with the late James Dickey , that his works have somehow diminished , and should no longer be read, analyzed or appreciated to any extent solely because, as best that I can understand it, Dickey , had the undeniable penchant for, God forbid, hyperbole, embellishment and stretching the truth , or , as Andy Griffith might say “ throwing a little extra jam on the bread”, especially when he explored and recounted his own personal exploits.

Let that sink in a little bit. Some men tell whoppers about gargantuan home runs and natural law-defying Bruce Lee-type fist fights. And ALL anglers tell fish stories. All grandparents try to convince the world that their grandchildren are little geniuses who will save the calculus teachers at the local high school, win the Heisman Trophy, or better yet, save Hollywood . You see where this is going, right ?

My straightforward response to all of those enlightened individuals who have leaped and landed on all fours and sprawled face-first onto that splintery, rickety , peg-loosened bandwagon bed is : well, just imagine that . Here you’ve got this well-heeled ad-writer for Coca-Cola , a poet and a novelist, and no-doubt creative genius, who, in the course of his creative writing, has practiced his gift for puffing and pushing the imagination envelope just as far and as long as he can go with it. The nerve and the gall. What in the wide wide world of sports is going on here ?

Those same critics can be heard in a different setting or two lavishing boundless praise upon flim-flam artists, horse traders, trial lawyers, certain politicians and even actors . They make generous exceptions by granting infinite leeway to people who capitalize on perfecting differing degrees of pretense for a living. The Anti-James Dickey crowd needs to get over themselves.

Mr. Dickey was my professor at The University of South Carolina. He was the writer-in-residence during the time that I sat in his classes for creative writing. He was generous with his time and encouragement. He read and quoted poetry like no other I have ever heard. And he wrote and told great stories. No one can take those things from him. Rest in peace, Mr. Dickey. We’ve got this. Tommy Cofield

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