Sunday, February 17, 2008
"An Introductory Lesson in Ontology, Made Palatable for the Kiddies"
About a week ago, Paper Cuts, The New York Times "Blog About Books" ran a short write up of PKD's young-adult science fiction novel, Nick and the Glimmung.
Times writer Dave Itzkoff (who wrote a pretty good column on PKD's LoA release here) writes:
"Published in 1988, six years after his death, and never released in the United States, Nick and the Glimmung has the gentle pacing and simplified vocabulary of a young-adult novel, but its sensibility and subject matter are unmistakably Dickian."
Itzkoff proceeds to quote the opening paragraph:
"Nick knew exactly why his family intended to leave Earth and go to another planet, a colony world, and settle there. It had to do with him and his cat, Horace. Owning animals of any kind had, since the year 1992, become illegal. Horace, in fact, was illegal, whether anyone owned him or not."
At some point we should try to catalog all of the cats named Horace that appear in PKD's work. For that matter, we probably should catalog every cat name used by Dick, put them in a database and try to connect fictional cats with the stable of cats PKD seemed intent to try and herd throughout his life - but no. Sadly, I am now in the "what I oughta do" zone, a place I promised never to return to after my many years in a perpetually stoned rock band.
Itzkoff claims that Nick and the Glimmung provides, "an introductory lesson in ontology, made palatable for the kiddies." That got me thinking. Perhaps the genre of science fiction made Dick's ontological mysteries, both more real and more relevant. Time travel literalizes the paradoxes of free will; cloning certainly provides an interesting lens with which to view Lacan's notion of the "other"; widespread electronic surveillance often justifies paranoia. PKD's real gift was his ability to use SF to explore the nuts and bolts of metaphysics.
Of course over at the New York Times, there is an interesting smattering of comments:
Alan Saly writes:
"Dick is a very uneven writer. Based on the samples, it doesn’t seem that his existential angst is a very good fit for YA readers."
Yeah, who ever heard of an angst-ridden teenager anyway!
Butch Pansy's take is much more in line with my own:
"I read everything Dick wrote that I could find when I was in high school, more than thirty years ago. He spoke to my own disaffection and sense of society’s ill will toward me. Inappropriate for young adults? Not at all. I was ready to understand him as soon as puberty reared its spotty head. It was good to know I was not alone in my torture. I’ve reread a few, and they still speak to the alien child in me, but he’s become a naturalized citizen in the meantime."
As my faithful readers already know, Subterranean Press is planning on releasing a US edition of Nick and the Glimmung later this year and according to a commenter from the publisher, Subterranean Press and the PKD estate are still deciding on an illustrator.
This new edition is great news because now we'll have a PKD title we can give to "tweens" and early teens so they can get introduced to PKD's ideas even before they get the standard YA SF stuff from Asimov and Bradbury.