Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Vision Quest, by Terry Davis

(hb; 1979)

From the inside flap:

“Eighteen-year old Louden Swain is a high school wrestle preparing for a big match against a ferocious opponent. He must lose weight, gain strength, and keep his balance – but of course there’s much more to it then that. As for Kuch, his irrepressible half-Indian teammate puts it, ‘I’d like to see if I can’t find my place in the circle. I’d like to know why things happen. I want to get clean.’

“Now, in the ample hours of this time beyond boyhood, the real learning must begin. Louden’s love affair with the adorable Carla is more than a delicious romp; his treks to the Columbia River and the mountains are more than reminiscent excursions, his wrestling practice and his diet more than mere feats of physical endurance. And then there is his inveterate novel-reading: James Agee and Bulgakov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kafka, and Carlos Castaneda – these are the literary witnesses to his quest for vision and maturity...”


Wrestling, youthful exuberance, cheerful horniness and spiritual-philosophical ramblings make up the chatty literary soup about Louden Swain, whose titular “quest” is to do something that most people don’t really understand: defeat Shute, a rival wrestler who will probably "grind" Louden's body into the wrestling mat. It’s well-written, and often hard to put down, but occasionally – especially in the last quarter of the novel – Davis gets carried away with Louden’s first-person narrative.

The location(s) of certain works become characters themselves, and Vision Quest (set in Spokane, WA.) is no exception to that cliche. Louden's perceptions and memories are centered in Pacific Northwestern sensibilities and locations. This gives a more personal feel to the novel, especially for those of us who actually live in Spokane.

Simply put: good read (with a stunning finish), better movie.

Filmed in Spokane in 1985, Matthew Modine starred as Louden Swain. Linda Fiorentino played Carla. Michael Schoeffling played Kuch. Ronny Cox played Larry Swain, Louden’s father. Directed by Harold Becker.


megastein said...

Stunning finish?????!?!?! What is it! Man, I don't remember the movie well enough...guess I'll have to put it down on Netflicks.

Steve said...

I'm a sucker for an end-line that's theme-consistent and surprising, while jazzing up the reader (i.e., it feels like a real-life moment, not a literary wrap-up line).

The end-dialogue (voice-over) is different in the movie, though no less effective. :)

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