Friday, April 13, 2007

The Narrative of the Cover Art for Time Out of Joint: Part 3

Hamlet: The time is out of joint. O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right

Dick's larger than life persona, replete with divine visions, drug use, and debilitating paranoia, began being visually telegraphed to science fiction readers almost immediately after Paul Williams' article “Burgling the Most Brilliant Sci-Fi Mind on Earth – It Is Earth, Isn’t It?” appeared in the November 6, 1975 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Dick's reputation in the mid-1980s was built upon the cult success of Blade Runner, his legendary "mystical experiences," and his far-out conspiracy theories.

Whether fictionalizing his own mysterious encounter with a non-existent light-cord in Time Out of Joint, writing himself into his later novels as “Philip K. Dick,” or exploring his own mystical experiences by incorporating them into his final books, Dick wrote himself into his fiction, creating a public persona that reads very much like Time Out Of Joint’s Ragle Gumm: a man in search of relevancy and significance. Since Dick’s death, writers have been weaving him into their other worlds.

Lawrence Sutin’s authoritative 1991 biography, Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K Dick endearingly depicts Dick as a brilliant and misunderstood writer struggling against obscurity in his own time. Sutin depicts the author as a tireless worker, a driven artist, a socially awkward agoraphobe, a mystic and a skeptic. Dick, the character as revealed in his later semi-autobiographical novels and Sutin’s biography, is so tantalizing that other writers have included the author in their fiction.

PKD's persona is so appealing that he has been integrated into the cover art of his books, suggesting to readers (consumers) that they are not only reading the story of Ragle Gumm, a slacker who lives with his sister and swills beer on the couch in the evenings, but also the story of his creator, a struggling author desperate for recognition and financial security, a precocious outcast, working his way slowly into our world, word by word, writing his way into people's lives, compensating for his isolation by connecting with his readers at a distance comfortable for an agoraphobic.

See how easy it is to make Dick into a character?

On this Bluejay Special Edition Dick is cast as Ragle Gumm, notice the newspaper in his hands. This is the most obvious instance of PKD being depicted as the protagonist of the novel in the cover art.


Anonymous said...

HI! I'm Brazilian and I am writing my PhD thesis on PKD, concentrating on the aspects that the author played with the concepts of 'history' versus 'fiction'. I'm using HIGH CASTLE, DO ANDROIDS and TIME OUT OF JOINT. Is there any chance that I can read your dissertation? Please, get in touch

My email is

Your blog is amazing and a great source of info for PKD fans. Keep up the good work!

Aharonium said...

"working his way slowly into our world, word by word, writing his way into people's lives, compensating for his isolation by connecting with his readers at a distance..."

I love your insight here. Described this way, the creator God exiled by the Demiurge outside the Black Iron Prison, is PKD himself. PKD is struggling to break through into our reality just as his characters are struggling to see the true world hidden from them. But what then is the demiurge? Is it the idea of fiction itself -- the inevitable chasm between creation and creator separating one from another. Or is it two emergent parts of the brain seeking reconciliation. Or something else.

Anonymous said...

I think PKD is in everything he wrote, to a greater or lesser extent. It becomes more obvious with the later books, as you say, but I think he's there even in the earliest short stories.

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