Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chapter Two

Above: an image from a Polish (I think) stage production of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch I found here. Any help translating the review from Polish to English would be appreciated.

Blogging The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Part Three

In his 1964 letter to Ron Goulart, describing his formula for novel writing, PKD explains that in chapter two he introduces the "protag, who gets a multisyllabic name. The protag works for -- and here comes the Institute or organization or business or -- well, almost anything just as long as it supplies these: it tells us what Mr S does and what it does: its function. We also learn this: the personal (or private or domestic) life of Mr S. His marital problems or sex problems or whatever it is that worries him uniquely and not the big corp for which he we no longer have background or mass abstraction, here; we have the immediate, the now, this not that; the problem is urgent and involves someone else..."


Chapter two belongs to Leo Bulero. He's the "protag" (although elements of the above formula could apply to Mayerson as well). This chapter, unlike the one before or after it, focuses solely on Bulero as we follow him throughout his day. Like Rick Deckard in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Bulero is an anti-hero, a character whose perception of himself fails to match the reader's estimation of him. Not quite a picaresque character as he is not of low class, but nevertheless Bulero "must live by his wits in an impoverished country full of hypocrisy" (from Wikipedia entry: picaresque)

Bulero's problem as introduced here is twofold: number one, he is troubled by the recent confiscation of a huge quantity of Can-D, the illegal drug settlers use to "translate" into their Perky Pat layouts; and two, Bulero is worried about Eldritch's return from the Proxima system, and even more worried when he is informed by the UN that Eldritch has returned with a lichen very similar to the one Can-D is derived from.

Bulero, on film, would need a giant over-sized head, the result of his extensive E therapy, and I picture him with throbbing veins and so forth. Roni almost calls him a bubble head to his face.

Bulero is pretty unlikeable as first introduced here. He calls UN representative Hepburn-Gilbert, "that dark-skinned sneaky little unevolved politician" (19) but this is perhaps more of a classicist insult than a racist one as Bulero seems to be referring to the fact that the man has yet to undergo 'E' or evolution therapy (much more on the therapy later).

Bulero is hilarious when talking with Mayerson about Roni Fugate (On the whole this book is way more laugh out loud funny than either Time Out of Joint or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the last two Dick books I spent a lot of time with). But at the same time Bulero is arrogant, "I'm practically a precog myself, I'm so advanced." (20).

Bulero is also completely unaware of his own selfishness: "My life, he thought, is dedicated to others" (25). But he's also dissatisfied (much like Hnatt, Mayerson, the businessman in the Pith helmet): "...but wasn't there more in life than this [material success]?" (25). However, Bulero recognizes that Mayerson and Roni Fugate both want his life. Bulero thinks to himself that everyone must feel empty in some way - except Palmer Eldritch: "he's found something else... Something worth the effort, worth the terminal crash on Pluto" (25). Bulero's date, the buxom Pia Jurgens says, "I actually thought maybe by going out that far [Palmer Eldritch would]... find God" (26).

Back at P.P. Layouts we soon learn that Roni Fugate is a cuthroat businesswomen offering Bulero her precog abilities to find Eldritch in exchange for Mayerson's job. Suspense builds as the chapter concludes when Roni is able to locate Palmer Eldritch with her precog abilities, further jeopardizing Mayerson's job.


13) Page 16 'Leo Bulero': The name Leo is of Latin origin, and its meaning is "lion". A common name in Roman times, and the name of 13 popes, including Leo the Great (fifth century), who successfully dealt with Attila the Hun when the Vandals conquered Rome.

While I cannot find any significance reference for Bulero , I did stumble on this apparent reference in George Zebrowski's 1979 novel 'Macrolife':

"The Bulero family/corporation, inventors and marketers of Bulerite which is used to build the huge cities which house the Earth's (and colonies) teeming millions, are at the pinnacle of their influence and wealth. Unfortunately, it is discovered - too late - that the substance is inherently flawed, in that after a time it destabilizes and self-destructs with spectacular results. Gradually, all the Bulerite on Earth, and that on and in the space colonies throughout the solar system becomes unstable, causing destruction and megadeath." (dg)

14) Page 16 'The UN was a windowless monad': I think this is an extremely important reference. G.W. Leibniz (1646-1716), Monadology 7 (1714): “The Monads have no windows, through which anything could come in or go out….Thus neither substance nor accident can come into a Monad from outside.”

PKD essay, “Drugs, Hallucinations, And the Quest for Reality,” (1964):
“Alienation, isolation, a sense of everything being strange, of things altering and bending – all this is the logical result, until the individual, formerly a part of human culture, becomes an organic, windowless monad.”

Anne Dick states in Sutin's biography that she and PKD often discussed Liebniz's ideas:

"We talked about Schopenhauer, Leibnitz [sic], monads, and the nature of reality" (Sutin, Divine Invasions (103) (dg and fb)

15) Page 17 'Felix Blau': The name Felix is of Latin origin, and its meaning is "happy, fortunate". Biblical: Roman procurator of Judea during Paul's time, a wily politician.

Somebody help me out here; isn't there a King Felix in Radio Free Albemuth?

Update: King Felix is the two word cypher Horselover gives PKD to give to Eric Lampton in VALIS.

Blau is German for blue. (dg)

16) Page 18 'The Indian's white teeth shone in gleeful superiority': again Dick references teeth in relation to power struggles. (dg)

17) Page 20 'I'll lower the fnard on her': Someone please help me with this one. All I can think of is Robert Anton Wilson's 'fnords' in The Illuminatus Trilogy (published between 1969-71).

18) Winnie-ther-Pooh Acres: Winnie is initially introduced by A.A. Milne as Winnie-ther-Pooh:
"When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say,
'But I thought he was a boy?'
'So did I,' said Christopher Robin.
'Then you can't call him Winnie?'
'I don't.'
'But you said--'
'He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?'
'Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly;
and I hope you [referring now to readers of this book] do too,
because it is all the explanation you are going to get.'" (dg)

19) Page 30 'James Riddle Veterans' Hospital': James Riddle was the real name of American labor leader Jimmy Hoffa. Damn that's a good one Phil! (dg)


nauseaboy said...

There is Felix Buckman who is general of the police force, in Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said.

palmer_eldritch said...

'King Felix' is the secret code used by the Lamptons in VALIS, I believe.

Roy said...

I think you should talk about pots a bit, because I think pots and other crafts may form an interesting theme through PKD's work. Here are the examples that came to mind as I mulled it over this weekend.

-- In Galactic Pot-Healer, one of PKD's protagonists is Joe Fernwright, a man whose vocation is the repair of broken pottery.

-- In Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, Jason Taverner is helped my a young lady who makes vases. He goes all Hollywood on her craft and in the process comes close to spoiling it for her.

-- In The Man in the High Castle, Frank Frink's custom jewelery becomes a subtle symbol of American resistance to Axis occupation and a catalyst to Mr. Tagomi's revelations.

-- In the short story "Souvenir" a handmade cup becomes the one surviving thing thing of an entire culture, but something that might overthrow the uniformity imposed by a totalitarian system.

Of course, a lot of this might come from the fact (if I recall correctly) that one of PKD's wifes was an artisan of some kind (pots? I can't remember). And when I read Stigmata, I like to imagine poor Phil trying to hock her pots to make ends meet between the crummy royalty checks.

Ragle Gumm said...

Thanks Roy, that's a great suggestion and I will add it to the footnotes. You're correct, Anne Dick, PKD's wife (soon to be ex) at the time he wrote 3 Stig made jewelry. Man in the High Castle features a jewelry maker. In fact I seem to remember that Dick had been telling Anne he couldn't help her with her jewelry business because he was writing something 'really important.' When she began to press him on details he realized he had to actually do it. Supposedly that's how MitHC came about.

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Ludimila Hashi said...

17) fnard -It can't be a reference to the Illuminatus, right? Since The Three Stigmata was published in 64 or 65...

Malbuff said...

"Fnard" is probably just a made-up word, as with "fnugled" later in the same story.