Books: Into The Wild, Mystical Yonder ALNILAM

by James Dickey; Doubleday; 682 pages; $19.95

From where the poet sat one recent afternoon, the boats appeared to be moving through tall grass. It was a serene illusion. The tawny-green South Carolina marsh spread for a mile, hiding the waterway so that only decks and sails were visible. Playing off the seen against the unseen is one of the tricks of the writing trade and of particular current interest to James Dickey, whose second work of fiction relies heavily on the uncanny perceptions of a blind man.

Alnilam is, as its dust jacket proclaims, a "novel by the author of Deliverance," the 1970 best seller that launched...