PKD's third wife, Anne Dick, sent me a response to Adam Gopnik's recent article "Blows Against The Empire" that she wrote to the editors at The New Yorker. They offered to print it in an abbreviated form but she refused. Here it is in its entirety:
I was married to Philip K Dick for five years in the late fifties and early sixties, a period when he wrote some of his best sci fi novels. They were not, as your frequent contributor says maliciously, “speed fueled”. How would he know anyway? I didn’t notice him observing what was going on in my house from the corner of a room. Philip was dedicated to his writing, loved doing it and wrote effortlessly. When I was married to him he was a kind, loving, modest man, helpful around the house, and wonderful with the children. My four daughters remember him fondly. He was a great listener, an entertaining talker, lovable and loving. A paragon of a husband–-for a good while.
After Philip’s death in 1982 I read all of his sci fi novels and stories three times in the order that they were written. I ‘ve also read most of his literary novels. At that time I wrote a memoir-biography, Search for Philip K Dick, Mellen Press, 1993, a book on which both Larry Sutin and Emmanuell Carrere based their books. Philip’s sci fi novels, among many other things, were a surrealist autobiography. In fact he referred to his writing as borderline surrealism. He put in the events of his daily life but as if they had occurred in a dream. He added black-humored social and political commentary, and, as Professor Warrick at the University of Michigan noted–over the years created as many characters as Shakespeare. A book of poetry could be assembled from selections from his prose although on the whole, narrative more than style was what he was involved with. But there was so much else in his writing and his prose was adequate to it.
As far as the movies based on his books go, most of his intellectual fans think that no one has “got it right” yet. Bladerunner came the closest. Obviously your contributor is NOT a fan. As I read his article I wondered how much Philip K Dick he had actually read.
You contributor says ”...in 1963 Philip was famous, admired and read.”...so he should have been happy. Happy earning $2000 a year, $1000 total for one Ace book, $750 if it was back to back with another writer on the other side? No,he didn’t think he had arrived yet. He definitely had thwarted ambitions–one was to earn a living. In those years sci fi was in a ghetto, looked down upon by “real writers” and other literate people. This was not a happy spot to be in either. Another thwarted ambition was to attain some respect from the literary establishment.
I don’t think he thought consciously about doing social satire or protest writing. He just wrote what was happening in his life, in his thoughts, in the world, and whatever he was thinking about or reading at the moment. He had a brilliant mind, a fantastic memory, and an inordinate ability to synthesize disparate events. He was a keen observer. When he used people who were friends and acquaintances as models he caught their speech so well that years later I can almost see these people when I occasionally read a passage.
I’m surprised that someone who purports to be a serious critic would use the word “crazy” so frequently. Yes, Philip had a vision near the end of his life and spent his remaining years trying to understand it. He wrote by hand during the night a two million words manuscript that no one has read in its entirety. Perhaps his ideas are a little odd here and there yet how one not respect the enormous effort he made. Some future reader will interpret it someday.
Philip started writing when he was a child. He wrote his first novel, Return to Lilliput, when he was thirteen. He wrote for the Berkeley Newspaper at this same age. He was a writer to the bone. He wrote me in later years that all he had in his life was his writing. To continually call him “crazy” and his writing, amphetemine-driven, is not fine criticism but actually scurrilous. It is not worthy of your otherwise fine publication to which Philip and I subscribed in the early 60's. He always hoped there would be a notice for one of his books in it and would go through every new issue looking for such. But in those days sci fi was in its pulp ghetto and a mention never would have appeared in the New Yorker. Now that finally an article about him has appeared in your pages after he has been well-recognized as a major literary figure all over the literate world, the United States being the last country to notice, I feel I need to write you and correct this disagreeable article. It has some interesting points in it but on a human level it almost has a tinge of vindictiveness. Could the author be jealous of Philip’s burning blazing writing life?
I’m surprised that I find myself in the position of defending Philip but I had to do it. This article was so unfair.
Anne R. Dick