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Book Review: Vision Quest

After I mentioned watching Vision Quest the other day (Stolen Youth), I decided to read the book it was based on (and almost 40 years after the movie came out I just discovered the other day it was based on a book) so I downloaded Vision Quest by Terry Davis. I started it late Friday night and finished it this morning, it isn’t a tough read at all clocking just over 250 pages, aimed at a younger reading audience and published in 1979.

Some of the characters and the basic premise of a wrestler losing a bunch of weight to take on the monster Shute are the same but lots of the book is very different from the movie. Louden is friends with his teammates instead of being kind of an outcast on the team. He and Carla have been living together while he is in high school for some time before the match. Shute doesn’t carry half a telephone pole up the bleachers to train, he carries his dad’s console TV and if you are my age you know how heavy those things are but in the book Louden and Shute know each other and are actually quite friendly, Shute being a good guy instead of a cartoonish monster. Where it really is different is how the book ends.

In the movie, there is the climactic final match between Louden and Shute and of course Louden comes from behind and wins. As I wrote, it is pretty much Rocky/Karate Kid for wrestlers. In the book the end is different, here are the final few sentences in the book.

I’m calm as I enter the circle. Behind me trails a brief tradition. It’s made up, but it’s mine. Win or lose, the river flows again.

Shute and I cross and shake hands. The whistle blows. Through me flows the power to blast Grand Coulee Dam to smithereens.

Terry Davis. Vision Quest (Kindle Locations 2522-2524). Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition.

We don’t know who wins the big match. That’s it because the book was never really about a wrestling match. It is about growing up, and that very jarring time when you leave high school and strike out into the wider world.

Like a lot of material from the 1970s, it is a little more raw about sex and especially with younger people. In the movie Mr. Tanneran is played by Harold Sylvester and is a kindly and wise mentor to Louden but in the book Gene Tanneran is apparently banging a lot of the girls in the school and it isn’t seen as creepy or weird. Very different times.

If you are into the movie version because you were a high school wrestler, you won’t find as much inspiration in the book but it is still an interesting read that harkens back to a simpler age.


  1. Locustpost

    All I know, as a son of a factory guy and WW2 vet who graduated HS in 1974 and followed on that by graduating with a real degree (which means you pass various forms of math classes) in 1978, it was a lot better back then. And, by the way, I wrestled and got a varsity letter. I’ve won more fights than I’ve lost but the larger picture is one of loss because my kids are in a shittier position. Maybe this is that normal state of things through most if history. But, I lived back then. It was much better the then. The Bushes, the Clintons, Obama and the immigration act passed in the 1960’s pushed through by Ted Kennedy damned our kids and gandkids into a hell that is going to take a giant fight to reverse.

  2. Bear Claw

    One of my all-time favorite movies, especially about a sport that has very little interest. In a bout between a boxer and wrestler, I would take the wrestler every time. Now I will have to read the book.

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