Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Reading: Blogging "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch"

On July 15 I will begin blogging my favorite PKD novel, 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.' Scene by scene, chapter by chapter, I'll be analyzing the action, looking for common PKD themes and connections to other works, enjoying the new notes on the novel prepared by Jonathan Lethem for the Library of America release, and exploring scholarly work done on the novel (see the list of links below). Please join me and all the other Dick-Head regulars as we explore one of Philip K Dick's greatest and weirdest novels. Dick said this about the novel in an interview:

"I have read [3 Stigmata] and have the distinct impression that it was an extraordinary book -- so extraordinary that it may have no peer. It may be a unique book in the history of writing --nothing was ever done like this. And then I've read it over and thought it was completely crazy, just insane; not about insanity, it is insanity. God, it's a weird book."

The SF Masterworks Series edition is difficult to get. I learned from the student bookstore at SFSU that the Vintage edition is currently the cheapest available:

Hopefully this will be a great collaboration. Please use the comments section of this post to suggest other supplemental reading materials, post your own thoughts on the novel or questions you'd like to see us address in our discussions, or simply let me know you plan to join the party.

For more secondary source material on 3 Stigmata see these posts:
A Satanic Bible: Eldritch Reviewed
Reviewer's Thumb Confused by Eldritch
Serving Up Even More Chew-Z Sources
Cover of the Day: Secondary Sources


Matt said...

Sounds great! I've never read this one, so I think I'll read along. Will your analysis reference future chapters?

MDK said...

Hey PKD Scholar!

The Three Stigmata is perhaps my favorite if not seconded only by Ubik. Kudos! I hope you enjoy your trek. Hope you don't mind if I follow along.

Ragle Gumm said...

Matt, you make a good point. No spoilers without spoiler alerts at the top of the post!

MDK, by all means, read along, share your thoughts, help us dig deeper...

Anonymous said...

3Stig is also my favourite novel, and I have red it 4 times now, the last time was a month ago now. Since my native language is Dutch I probably will not add (high-brow) comments to the party, but I am sure going to read the blogs...

Some of the questions I'd like to see addressed:
* Is this novel blasphemic (reaction from British reviewer(s) at the time it was published)?
* Did Dick "make up the novel as he went along" (as one reviewer once has stated)?
* Does it show this novel was written while Dick was on amphetamines (and LSD?) (is this proven btw?)

cos said...

great timing! I just ordered a copy from amazon (along with Ubik) a few days ago after a co-worker mentioned it was one of his favorite PKD novels. Looking forward to following it through (assuming the delivery makes it here in time ... ;)

John Carr said...

I was planning on reading this one for the first time this summer anyway, so I'll be joining in as well.

I just got my BA in English at the beginning of May, and I'm already missing classes -- this ought to be a fun substitute. :)

Are you going to be scheduling out the reading ahead of time, or just taking it as you can?

marcinko said...

This is just a great idea. Fascinating how a new medium gives us new ways to look at old media.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to this, ragle - plus I'd be interested to hear what you think about PKD's attitude to human 'evolution' in the novel.

Sergio said...

I just got the LOA edition of PKD's word. Three Stigmata and Ubik are the two of the books in the collection I haven't read.

Questions: How much should we read ahead before the first post?

can't wait to be involved in the dicussion.


Anonymous said...

Just read it and loved it. My first PKD novel! Can't wait.

Unknown said...

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I grabbed an original hardcover version off amazon for around 20 bucks. This is a MUST READ.

Anonymous said...

Spoiler alerts are fine, but we shouldn't have to hold back any discussion on, say, what happens in Chapter 2, which might involve mentioning something that happens in Chapter 11, because someone doesn't want to have the ending spoiled.

Anyway, Dick makes clear that the ending is the first part of the book you read. It's a loop.

As for this book being evil? PKD did think it was, for a while. Then he thought it was just mildly dangerous.

I've read everything published under PKD's name, most of it two or three times, but 3SPE is the book I keep coming back to. It is the classic PKD novel because it is jam-packed with PKD's nightmarish imaginings, paranoias, reality twists and brilliant dialogue.

There's something genuinely disturbing about it, and not in a scary Stephen King kind of way. If a book could come alive and come and get you, 3SPE would be that book.

The book haunted PKD for the rest of his life, and I don't believe he ever truly made peace with its creation.

It is like something invaded PKD during the creation of Palmer Eldritch and took over, leaving again once the book was written, but not leaving him completely. A stain, a shadow, a darkness stayed behind. PKD experienced the most turmoil-riddled years of his life shortly after he finished it.

I'm pretty certain 3SPE is the first example of PKD writing a version of what he later referred to as the "infinite regress". Like falling backwards through yourself, forever.

You come out of the hallucination, but you find yourself in another one, and then another, and you can't find your way back to reality. Eventually you stop caring what that old reality was, the original reality, because what's to say that wasn't an hallucination as well?


BTW, PKD always claimed he hadn't tried LSD before he wrote about Palmer, and from interview with his friends at the time, it looks like he was telling the truth.

But PKD was already an experienced mixer of pharmaceuticals by then, some of which may have induced hallucinatory states. He had read Huxley and others describing mushroom experiences, and he had become quite an experienced mushroom picker himself, by then, in the forests of Point Reyes.

Perhaps, before he knew what he was doing, he ate mushrooms of the toxic kind and experienced a mild, terrifying trip. PKD was proud of his knowledge about mushrooms, how he could spot and name dozens of different ones on sight. It is not unlikely that PKD would have kept secret such a mistake, if that is indeed what happened.

Also, Dick makes references to Jesus Christ being part of a mushroom cult in Timothy Archer.

Anyway, enjoy the book. It's always an interesting experience, particularly the way you keep finding new stuff in there each time you read it, like the book is rewriting itself while it sits on that shelf all those months that you manage to leave it alone....booga.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was way too long. I'll keep the comments short from now on.

Anonymous said...

Kudos on taking the time to review a book so deeply, especially at a time when few even take the time to read a book. That it's a PKD book is even better!

Josh Burker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Burker said...

It has been about nine years since I read "Three Stigmata." Reading about your project reminded me of the collage I created after reading the book. I tried to capture the fractured time aspect of the book, Palmer Eldritch and his three stigmata, Anne (?), and Barney (?), who is in a Chew-Z stupor.


Anonymous said...

THAT'S the kind of thing I will be reading eagerly. Good choice.

Unknown said...

Lousy title. Best book. Very happy to see it get the attention it deserves. Horray for the chew-z people!

Meowbag said...

I've got several people who will be reading along. Thanks!

Chris Cohen said...

I'll be reading along. This'll be my second time reading The Three Stigmata. Even just reading that review you posted with the scanned in pages helped to understand the book more than I had originally. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it and getting discussions going.

Freyashawk said...

Philip Dick always has been one of my favourite writers as well. 'Three Stigmata' is an incredible book, but then even his 'lesser' works are magnificent. Seldom has there been a writer of his vision with the courage to ignore all conventions, disregard public opinion and simply expose and express all his thoughts, imagination and ideas to the world as generously to the same extent as he did.

I am delighted to discover a site devoted to one of the Masters.

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Anonymous said...

dick's description of this novel is accurate. the first time i read it i was overloaded. it caused me a serious nervous breakdown. i must also comment that it is the most accurate representation of a hallucinogenic experience in any format. it was like inducing an lsd high by some alternate means.