Saturday, June 30, 2007
Warren G. Harding in the Blooming Grove
I've been putting together a deal with Zack Woods over at thephildickian.com to buy a complete set of the PKD Society Newsletters and Rickman's interview book "In His Own Words." Browsing the site I discovered this letter Dick wrote to Claudia Bush, a student working on her thesis. In the letter Dick discusses a series of dreams in which he could clearly but incompletely see a blue hardcover book with a title ending in "...Grove."
I clearly remembered this episode from Carrere's book I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K Dick. I suddenly felt compelled to locate the relevant passage, but I couldn't remember if it was at the beginning or the end. After scanning through the parts I thought likely, I simply typed into Google Philip K Dick and Warren G Harding. The fourth result was this scanned page from the book with the search terms highlighted. That's really impressive! Perhaps I should begin to assemble what I feel to be source material for specific episodes in Carrere's book, which is ultimately much more like Lethem's brilliant pastiche, "The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism" in February's Harper's than it is a conventional biography.
Regardless, the narrative Dick constructs around these dreams is extremely interesting. In fact I think he recreates it in a lot of his stories. The feeling of the dream convinces Dick that this book holds all the secrets; every answer he has ever looked for is in this book. And he knows it, feels it in his bones. He becomes obsessed with finding the answer. But like the experience with the biography of Warren G Harding, for Dick (and his characters) the final piece to the puzzle simply doesn't fit. Rather than having answers, he is simply left with more questions. And what's more, he is now skeptical of his own mind which supplied ample assurances that a solution could actually be found.
What's also funny is the way my search recapitulates Dick's search, which he recounted to someone else in relation to their search, and that you can now "buy" or even "own" (for $1000) the record of these searches, this object of other's searches. What's weirder is that owning something never really satisfies our eternal search for the Truth. Perhaps it's time to start printing Warren G Harding on all our money.