Monday, April 23, 2007

Lethem's Dick Meta-Fic

Henri over at The Philip K Dick Bookshelf posted these great pictures of the Lucky Dog Pet Food Store on San Pablo Ave in Berkeley, the place Dick bought horsemeat.

Jonathan Lethem includes the store in his meta-fiction short story "Phil in the Marketplace" which appeared in the literary journal The Virginia Quarterly Review. Once again, Dick is reanimated as a character in another writer's fiction. Lethem gives it an amazing twist and I love it:

"The Lucky Dog Pet Shop is where the writer of Ubik goes to buy ground horsemeat, ostensibly for his dog, actually for himself and his wife to eat. It’s not so bad, horsemeat. In the Pyrenees they smoke it into jerky and serve it with hard cheese and casks of good red wine. What’s bad is the shame. The writer of Ubik has come to suspect that the woman who runs the cash register at the Lucky Dog Pet Shop knows he’s buying the horsemeat for himself, that there is no dog. In a world where the FBI has already visited the writer’s house—they were dapper and polite, fine figures of men, a little older than he’d expected; they reminded him of Hollis, they took him for a drive, he sort of liked them—the woman is one of his foremost looming authority figures. She might turn him in. She might tell his mother.

Yet when the writer of Ubik gets to the cash register he finds not the dreaded woman but instead a substitute clerk, a young man with a small beard like a Beat. When the writer approaches, the substitute clerk greets him in a voice conditioned by cigarettes and bearing traces of an accent. The writer understands without knowing how he understands that the substitute clerk is from France. More than just from France. The substitute clerk is a Marxist literary critic. The writer feels relief. Here is someone who certainly must grasp the eating of horsemeat. The writer’s going to get away with it, at least today.

“You are Philip?”


“You will write Ubik?”

“I don’t know, I guess so.”

“In that book reality proves unstable and can only be restored by the application of a product in a spray can, available on drugstore shelves.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Can you sell me two pounds of ground horsemeat, please?”

“Therefore, you apprehend that all around you is ideology. You know better than anyone daily life is delusory. You see the commodity fetish. Why are you so afraid?""


Read the rest. I really like Lethem's portrayal of PKD.
Lethem's story "The Spray" which appeared in his collection Men in Cartoons plays with Dick's aerosol-can trope brilliantly. My second-year literature students are reading it this week.
Lethem's even got a Ubik tattoo!


Viacom Ego said...

You should really listen to the first episode of Theory of Everything, in which Benjamen Walker gets his Ubik tattoo and interviews Lethem about PKD. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the linkage. :)

There must be some Dick fans at Blogger/Google, for them to let you have this domain name. Impressive!

MDK said...

I blalked (how do you like my new word? cross between blog and walked. ha!) over to the Virginia Quarterly and read Lethem's story. Interesting hypothetical situation on how Phil could react.