Blogging The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch Part Two
Alright, let's get into this. This post will cover the first half of chapter one up to page eight in the Vintage edition (when we meet Richard Hnatt). I have been corresponding with Frank Bertrand, another PKD scholar who's rapidly becoming one of my favorite people ever, and he has generously produced some additional footnotes for us which I plan to add to (Frank's footnotes will conclude with his initials in parentheses (fb), Mine will end (dg). Lethem produced only eight footnotes for the entire novel in the Library of America release; his footnotes will end (jl). Hopefully when I finish blogging the novel I can create a file with all of the annotations. The last time I read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, half of each page was dedicated to footnotes. I am quickly realizing there are almost as many literary allusions, and historical and biographical references in 3 Stigmata. Let's be punk rock and post them for free on the Internet (unless you work for Norton Publishing and you want to hire me to produce a critical edition, in which case I will totally sell out cheap and leave all my Internet Dick-heads high and dry).
1) Page 4 'P.P. Layouts': The motif of Perky Pat layouts is taken from Dick's 1963 short story "The Days of Perky Pat," published in Amazing Stories. (jl)
2) Page 5 'Life is short, art is------": "The original "Ars longa, vita brevis" is usually rendered in English "art is long, life is short." Usually. It is sometimes seen as an exhortation to aspire to create (or at least revere) great art, which will outlive us all. Shakespeare ended one of his sonnets
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
conferring immortality on the subject of the sonnet. And it worked. Shakespeare is dust; the object of his affection is dust; the poem will live forever."
The quote is also attributed to Hippocrates as:
"Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgment difficult."
This seems more relevant. Source: brainyquote.com(dg)
3) Page 8 'another scorcher...probably up to the twenty Wagner mark': Any Dick-head worth his salt knows PKD was a huge fan of the composer Richard Wagner. I can find no other obvious connection. Gregg Rickman writes in To The High Castle: Philip K Dick A Life:
"Dick for all of his life was drawn to German culture, to Goethe and Schiller, to Beethoven and Wagner. What was usually 'blasting away" on his record player was, more often than not, it seems, music by Richard Wagner."
In this first chapter we meet Barney Mayerson, one of my all-time favorite PKD characters. I don't know about you, but I'd cast Seinfeld's Jason Alexander to play Mayerson (I bet he's do it too; he's a huge science fiction fan, even playing a smug alien on one of the episodes of Star Trek Voyager). Mayerson reminds me of Willie Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." Mayerson appears stocky, and I picture him as extremely hairy. Mayerson is both a predator, an alpha-male in the business world, and prey, the aging pre-cog struggling to keep his job as more talented pre-cogs bite at his heels.
Mayerson's complexity is perfectly encapsulated in this exchange with Roni Fugate.
"Just think," she said reflectively. "If you're drafted, Mr Mayerson, and sent to the colonies...maybe I'll find myself with your job." She smiled showing superb, even teeth.
[note how Dick is already creating a connection between a rabid lust for power and teeth (our primary means of consuming) which will be borne out more fully in Palmer Eldritch]
'You can't handle my job, [Mayerson] said. You couldn't even handle it in People's China and that's a relatively simple situation in terms of factoring out pre-elements.' But someday she could; without difficulty he foresaw that. She was young and overflowing with innate talent."
We also meet Roni Fugate (hubba hubba). I would cast Scarlett Johansen or Elisha Cuthbert as Roni. If you want proof that Dick is using perspective to show that reality is subjective, notice that Mayerson describes Roni's green sweater as "somewhat tight" (pg 7), while Richard Hnatt calls the sweater "too tight" (pg 18). I subscribe to the "somewhat tight" reality.
A side note: palmer_eldritch over at Frolix_8 started a project a while back listing Dick's description's of women, noting that he can't seem to resist describing the breasts in great detail.
I love Dick's description of Roni as she springs into her morning exercise regime:
"Rising on her toes she all at once stretched, reached over her head, then, to his amazement, began to do a brisk series of exercises, hopping and leaping, her breasts bobbing."
Mayerson is having one hell of a morning.
We also get our first bit of information about Mayerson's boss, Leo Bulero, a man seems completely dedicated to his business, P.P. Layouts, devising, "dogma on every topic" while also a kind of selfish hedonist spending "all his time at the resort beaches of Antarctica or in German E Therapy clinics"
Mayerson dreams of having his boss's life: "Someday he said to himself, I'll live like Leo Bulero." (page 7)
Stay tuned for my commentary on the second half of Chapter One which I hope to post later today. I am working on trimming my commentary a bit, but there's so much to discuss.