Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas To Me!

It seems I was a very good boy this year; my wife bought me three volumes of Dick's Selected Letters, partially filling the last hole I had in my collection (and adding no less than six inches to my overall Dick length). In fact I'm mulling over writing a book, but have been putting it off until I had access to these letters.

These volumes are known to be ridiculously expensive and/or hard to get; what can I say? I lucked out. My wife got them pretty reasonably (I'm told by her) from lwcurrey.com.

So far I'm about 100 pages into the 1972-73 volume (all grading has been put on hold) and the letters are extremely interesting and shed a lot of light on that particular time in Dick's life: he's just moved to Fullerton from Vancouver; he's broke, alone, and emerging from the darkest year of his life. Letters to lawyers, friends and family, chicks, agents, all delve at length into Dick's problems, interestingly, in almost equal detail whether he's chronicling his troubles to life long friend Ray Nelson, or the snuff vendor, settling up after a check bounced. The writing is incredibly good, in places as funny and as devastating as any of his novels.

As a scholar I think these letters are a bit dangerous (as is any piece of evidence however small and seemingly innocuous in the Case of Philip K Dick); as they are the 'Selected Letters' I wonder who selected them (that's probably in an introduction I skipped), what was left out, and why. I have lots of questions, like why does Phil refer to Tessa in one letter as Leslie? Who exactly is 'Kathy'? And why in the world did PKD write that letter to the FBI about Disch's Camp Concentration?

Don't expect answers to these questions (that's my silent mantra), but I will write up a more thorough post about this volume when I'm done. How many of you have these? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section.

Update: TDH buddy Palmer_Eldritch has, coincidentally, recently posted quotes from the 72-73 volume of the letters here.


Douglass Truth said...

didn't know they existed... now I'm excited. Some of my favorite writing of William S Burroughs are his letters. These sound even better.

Griph said...

Wow, I had no idea about these! Which do you recommend to start?

Andrew said...

They are great! It's been a while since I dipped into these, but I think I'll get them off the shelf soon. Does anyone happen to know if the final volume was ever published (1980-1982)? Great blog, by the way.!

Andrew said...

Hi again!

I emailed Underwood Books, and had a reply. The final volume has not yet been published.

tuffy777 said...

I haven't seen these letters, but I can answer one question for you:

Leslie is my real name. Mom always called me Tess, but my real name is Leslie.
~~ Tessa

Bert Goltz said...

If the 1980-1982 vol has not yet been published, then what is on sale here:


The seller has a large number of sales and a high rating, so it doesn't seem likely to be a straight-up scam.

ARCS or something similar?

tuffy777 said...

Bert, I remember that book --it's for real -- I think Paul Williams put it together.

Ragle Gumm said...

Bert, I'm not sure what's going on with those amazon listings. The sixth volume of letters has been in limbo for years, and I'm pretty sure it's never been released. Might be worth asking the book vendor advertising these editions.

Griph, there is a volume of letters spanning the late 30s-1971, this would be the place to start. I still haven't found a cheap copy of this volume.

Mr. Hand said...

awesome gift! I have been rereading some of the "dear Claudia" letters recently. I agree with you that it's dangerous to try and read the letters and try and extract some "system" or "PKD intention" or whatever, but think they are hugely entertaining and of great literary merit in their ipseity. As well as shedding all kindsa light on PKD's more intimate forms of humour and self-deprecating irony.

Pantomime Horse said...

3 volumes with no ISBN for $999.00 each from same seller sounds odd but possibly they are the real deal from some sort of pre-print test run. Someone posted this on 12/21/09:
I emailed Underwood books and got this response:

We haven't published the book yet, but plan to late winter, early spring

Best regards
Tim Underwood

Underwood Books
Maybe going to happen within my lifetime afterall. How about the second half of Rickmann's PKD bio? In 1989, he wrote he hoped it wouldn't take him 20 years to finish the second half. We could be hitting near schedule/reschedule on this one. ;-)

tuffy777 said...

has anyone thought to ask the book seller to explain?

Henri said...

The books were published with the help of volunteers from the PKD society. I helped type up about fifty of the letters that should be in the last volume. Probably the last letters he wrote.
That was in 1989. I was promised a free book in return for my help. I have been waiting for 20 years. The release of the book was announced several times but it never happen. A few years ago it was supposed to be printed in Berkeley and was in the printer's catalog.

Michael said...

PLEASE don't mull over it. WRITE! I'm counting on either Lethem or yourself to write THE biography. 2500 pages plus would be great!

palmer_eldritch said...

Currently riding the brain-mangler that is the Selected Letters '75 - '76. Two kinds of time at right-angles to each other? What?

tuffy777 said...

ah, orthogonal time
-- some time travelers - or rather time meddlers - were trying to show Phil how they did it
-- chunks of the same period of time with different events are stacked up like dominoes, and they shuffle them
-- so alternate universes do not really exist - they are simply different arrangements of the possibilities
-- the time meddlers are trying to change our time line to make their future better
-- thus, we seem to remember events that never happened, and not to remember events that did happen
-- they tried and tried to prevent the JFK assassination, but it was disastrous

Ragle Gumm said...

Seems like if you turn at a right angle from the direction time is moving, you would stay in one moment in time, but be traveling through the different possible timelines. Not moving forward or backward through time but sideways, for instance traveling through all the partially actualized realities existing for that moment. In one the Germans and Japanese won world war II, and in one Spock has goatee, etc etc...

GillesB said...

Hi there from France,
Great blog: I have just found it by chance!

I remember there is a warning in the intro of one of the 4 volumes (that I was lucky to find) that say that the letters are not necessarily the objective truth as PKD would often change it for his own purposes. Some names had to be changed too.
Still it is great reading, his humor is here and also his darker sides. It gives the reader a greater sense of empathy.

1938-71 is what remains of his letters after the break-in.I'm looking for this one at a reasonable price.
1980-1982 should let us have a glance at his feelings re Blade Runner & his final unfinished novel. When they finally publish it.

Enjoy the reading!

Pantomime Horse said...

Regarding ridiculously expensive; in an issue of Radio Free PKD Tim Underwood mentions that the first volume published lost money. Possibly that's true of all the volumes or if not direct money losers they use up time and resources that could be used more profitably. I think these have been more labors of love than items of commerce. A pity the estate/trust hasn't seen fit to subsidize the last volume and/or a new publication of all the volumes. I don't see them as profitable for mass market editions but they are invaluable for PKD scholars and Dickheads. Maybe if it ext..., ext..., ext..., extracts some huge money from Google over the Nexus-6 attempt to take down Nexus One.

Orthogonal time wasn't an original concept of Phil's (1000s of years old at the least) but it was one he used even in some of his very early work I think. Don't think it was in the time travel story, Meddler, though it would be an amusing coincidence if it was. I'm curious whether he read Ray Bradbury's A Sound Of Thunder before he wrote Meddler (some interesting similarities and the butterflies could be a "tip of the hat" to Bradbury). Scott Meredith Literary Agency got the MS for Meddler about a month after A Sound Of Thunder was published and PKD was a very fast writer of short stories at the time so it could have been an inspiration or something he read while already working on Meddler though pure coincidence of timing and butterflies is perfectly possible. It's amazing to me how often writers have independently come up with far more similar ideas at the same time.

I'm moved to put in a recommendation for Fritz Leiber's The Big Time and his "Change War" short stories. They are almost all available together in an Ace Double if you can find it. Orthogonal time brought that to mind. Great reading. Great Author.

Geuss I didn't mention in my earlier post but responding to TDH: I have all the published volumes. Gotten each one as soon as possible.

Let Tim Underwood know your current address. Even if it hasn't changed. I'm sure you'll get your free copy if it does get published and he knows where to send it.

tuffy777 said...

free copies? wish I could get some -- I'm terribly broke