Saturday, March 31, 2007

What A Dick!

A couple of days ago a blogger named Gregory McNamee posted an article over at Britannica titled Philip K Dick -- Even Paranoiacs Have Enemies. McNamee argues that our technologically sinister world is looking more and more Dickian everyday -- he'll get no argument from me on that. But then McNamee explains that Dick foresaw this bleak future because, "Not much in Dick's life was right." It's the usual litany of accusations against the author: multiple marriages, drug abuse, agoraphobia, cruelty. OK, not exactly the nicest stuff, but certainly in bounds, chronicled at length in Sutin's biography, Dick's letters and even in his fiction.

McNamee then proclaims "[Dick] prized things over people, it seems."

McNamee's point is that Dick is the perfect prophet for this dysfunctional future as he was himself so dysfunctional. Whether McNamee is referring to Dick's priorities in real life or those of his characters, is unclear -- either way, it's a terrible thing to say. The notion that Dick valued things over people, is countermanded in dozens of novels in which the most despicable aspect of certain characters is their thingness.

Things, in PKD's work, are sinister, impenetrable, and unknowable; things have no community, only commodity, and act without concern for others. I suppose some of Dick's characters might fit this description as well, but Dick never lets these selfish people off the hook. They pay for their self-concern and egotism with isolation and existential angst -- isolation they feel precisely because they are human.


Gregory McNamee said...

Your juvenile headline certainly doesn't put me in any hurry to reconsider my statement or opinion. Thanks so much for your contribution to humane discourse.

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