Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Volume Three From the Library of America Reviewed

The Philip K Dick juggernaut continues its long slog towards literary respectability whether or not I can pull myself away from papers to grade long enough to document it. Case in point, the Library of America's third volume of PKD was released a few days ago. The deafening cacophony of mainstream media outlets falling over each other to chronicle the countless tragedies of PKD's life has quieted a bit, leaving only a few reviews to contextualize the efforts of our favorite ultra-prolific social misfit. David Hellman, a librarian at San Francisco State Unversity (where I am currently working as well) offers a lengthy and interesting review of the new volume for the San Francisco Chronicle. While the review offers little new information (seems like these articles all chronicle some guy who's never heard of Philip K Dick struggling to wrap his mind around what all the fuss is about), Hellman does zero in on the value of Dick's writing:

"What this volume ultimately tells us is that Dick was not a science fiction writer, but instead he was our writer. Some science fiction readers have chided him for valuing the fiction over the science, and he certainly did not write your typical space operas. But that seems to be the point here, and why in fact he transcends in so many ways, and to use his own concept, the "Black Iron Prison" of the genre. Dick was our writer because he was deeply concerned about human matters and about spiritual survival in an ever more materialistic and media-driven world. That should be good enough reason alone to be in anyone's canon."

Read the whole article here.

And buy the latest volume from the Library of America here:


Anime Wars said...

I need to pick this up. I lost my copy of Divine Invasion. VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer are in poor shape after reading them and leaving them repeatedly in my car in the hot Florida condition (The cover's plastic is like...melted and wrinkly).

And to top it off, I just probably used like 200+ sticky notes for notetaking in VALIS (its definitely an eyecatcher...or an eyesore). That poor book. This must be at least the twelth time I've read it, possibly more.

*tries to stowaway the thirty plus dollars for this book*

Pantomime Horse said...

"While the review offers little new information (seems like these articles all..."

I think the internet makes this type of thing significantly commoner than it used to be. The other day I was editing a poorly written, unsourced Wickipedia article which contained factual errors. While hunting with a search engine for a source to cite for one statement I had to check about 30 search results before I found one that wasn't quoting or citing the article I was editing. I was curious enough to check about 40 more search results; one was to the interview I'd already found (usable but a little weak), one was to a purchasable journal article whose abstract suggested a very small possibility the full text might be relevant and all the others were quotes and citations of the Wickipedia article I was editing. To top it off, none of these indicated the article might not be fully authoritative although it was prominently tagged as entirely subject to removal for two seperate reasons unless major defects were remedied. One of the defects was that it lacked references or citations.

Robert Cook said...

Hellman's review is well-done, taking Dick seriously as a writer, and not placing undue emphasis on his personal foibles which so beguile too many others who write about him. I was surprised to hear his judgement of THE DIVINE INVASION as "plodding" and, at times, "cringe inducing." I haven't read INVASION since it was first published 28 years ago, but my recollection is that I found it a peak return to form for Dick, after the puzzling (to me, at that time) VALIS. I have read VALIS 3 times, and I have never loved it; rather, I find it admirable for its ambitions, and I respect its achievement, but it stands at a sort of chilly reserve for me, a challenging work that still somewhat eludes me. By contrast, I found INVASION heady philosophically but entertaining in the way Dick could be at his best: the story was fast-moving, the characters sympathetic, and the whole quite moving. TIMOTHY ARCHER I thought a fine effort, but somewhat muted. (I also haven't reread ARCHER since its original publication.) In sum, of the three, my favorite was clearly INVASION.

On the occasion of the new omnibus edition, I plan to reread this final trio of Dick's works. I wonder how much my original reactions to these books will be confounded or confirmed.