August 15, 2007

Philip K. Dick rediscovered by the New Yorker

Filed under: philip k. dick — ubikcan @ 10:37 pm

Big piece in the New Yorker this week on PKD.

I think they over-dramaticize his life (he didn’t “go crazy” in the 70s, he occupied that liminal space for which we have no name between eccentricism and over-intellectualism).

He wasn’t reviewed on the front page of the Times Book Review, but so what? Reading his life—either in the reflective French version, by Emmanuel Carrère, or in the thorough and intelligent American one, by Lawrence Sutin—one has a sense not of a man of thwarted ambition but, rather, of a man burning up with ideas and observations who found in a pop form the perfect vehicle for expressing them. Dick’s allegiance was not to literature but to writing and to the possibilities of writing as a form of protest and instant social satire.

But the “protest” and “satire” are right. Here’s a man who lived deeply and passionately, and not without the saving grace of humor (and self-mocking humor; he was well aware of how odd his ideas were). Listen to him on tape, recorded late at night in some California ranch house, chuckling to himself as he played out various explanations of the meaning of it all. A crazy doesn’t write A Scanner Darkly. He was odd, yes, But saying he was crazy is just so… insufficient. He practiced an ethics of resistance, is what I’d say, but even that doesn’t quite get it.

By the way, if you’ve only ever seen one of the 8 or so movies based on his novels (Blade Runner of course being about the best because no doubt filmed by Ridley Scott), but also Minority Report, Total Recall, Scanner Darkly, etc. you’re missing this humor in the books, which is washed out by the klieg lamps.

God in a spray can! If that isn’t funny then I’m alive and you’re dead.

The Ubik creed.

I am Ubik.
Before the universe was I am.
I made the suns.
I made the worlds.
I created the lives and the places they inhabit; I move them here, I put them there.
They go as I say, they do as I tell them.
I am the word and my name is never spoken, the name which no one knows.
I am called Ubik but that is not my name.
I am.
I shall always be.

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