Friday, February 22, 2008
Yep, VALIS was on 'Lost' Last Night
The rumors were true. The cover of the Vintage edition of VALIS was shown briefly on 'Lost' last night. Video here.
I'm a fan of the show, and since I noticed the blog got a lot of hits last night from people Googling "Lost and VALIS" I figured I'd try to lay out some of the elements from the book that may be relevant to the show:
First off, the book is pretty complicated, so in my opinion, while it's a cool shoutout to PKD, I don't think there's any real clue in the book that would serve as a Rosetta Stone and allow us to unravel any mysteries. 'Lost' deals in questions, not answers, but so does VALIS.
VALIS, which some call 'fictionalized autobiography', pits reason and skepticism against faith, so does 'Lost.' VALIS stands for Vast, Active, Living, Intelligent, System" and was one of many names Philip K Dick gave to the what he perceived to be a superior intelligence that was trying communicate with him. Locke gives Ben the book to help him pass the time while he is being held captive.
In VALIS Dick describes the "Black Iron Prison":
"Once, in a cheap science fiction novel, Fat had come across a perfect description of the Black Iron Prison, but set in the far future. So if you superimposed the past (ancient Rome) over the present (California in the twentieth century) and superimposed the far future world of The Android Cried Me a River over that, you got the Empire, as the supra- or trans-temporal constant. Everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it.”
Philip K. Dick, Valis, London; Gollancz, 2001, pp. 54-55
Seems a bit like "Lost." Especially when viewed in conjunction with Sawyer's reading of The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Cesares, which, according to its publisher, is "set on a mysterious island, Bioy's novella is a story of suspense and exploration, as well as a wonderfully unlikely romance, in which every detail is at once crystal clear and deeply mysterious."
Wait a sec, that sounds a lot like "Lost."
VALIS also plays with the idea of recovered memories, even recovered identities.
So to boil it down, VALIS is, in part, about communication with a higher power (which of course resonates with Locke's search for Jacob); VALIS pits reason against faith (kind of like the Jack/Locke dialectic). But most importantly, if the writers of 'Lost' really want to mess with the minds of their most obsessive fans, VALIS is the perfect literary allusion, since the novel itself raises more questions than it answers.
I hope this reference introduces the book to some new people. It's one of PKD's finest works.
All you 'Lost' aficionados who've read VALIS please use the comments section to discuss...
Update: Coverage of VALIS' second appearance on March 6 here.