Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here's A Contest! PKD and the Beauty of Nature

Currently vacationing in Kauai with the family. Of course it's lush and beautiful here, and it reminds me of an observation of Erik Davis: Dick does not describe natural beauty in his books. So, since I'm on vacation I will turn it over to you gentle readers... Find me an example of a vivid description of nature, and you may win a plastic dark-haired hula girl for your car's dashboard. I suggest you look in Confessions of a Crap Artist. Leave your best quoted description in the comments section. A-LOOOOOO-HA!

Update: Some great entries. Currently in first place is a quote from the beginning of "Upon the Dull Earth." But there's still time. I think we can do better.


Mr. Hand said...

interest, in ch2 of Crap artist he has a lot to say about the cars, but little to say about the natural features of the drive--he likes that it's four lanes all the way (he mentions the beach in Santa Cruz but doesn't describe it, in the next chapter mentions a marsh but doesn't describe it). at the end of the chapter "beatiful" is used for the animals:

"And yet, they loved the house. They had four black-faced sheep cropping grass outside their glass side, their arabian horses, a collie dog as large as a pony that won prizes, and some of the most beautiful imported ducks in the world."

later in ch3 "down the cypress needle path she went" (again no description like beach and marsh, although there's been lots of description of cars and what people are doing)

we get a very positive view of life on the farm but not much description of the beauty of nature out there

""He ought to be up in the country," Charley said. "In the healthy air. Where he could be with animals."
Several times Charley had tried to get my brother up to the farm area around Petaluma; he wanted to get him onto one of the big dairy farms as a milker. All Jack would have to do was open a wooden door, head a cow in, push the electric gadgets onto its teats, start the vacuum working, stop the vacuum at the right moment, unhook the cow, go on to the next cow. Over and over again -- the pit, as far as creative jobs go, but something that Jack could handle. It paid about a dollar and a half an hour, and the milkers got their meals and a bunkhouse to sleep in. Why not? And he'd be up where there were animals -- big dirty cows crapping and swilling, crapping and swilling.
"I'm not against it," I said. We knew a number of the ranchers; we could easily get him on as a novice milker.
"Let's drive him back up with us," Charley said."

...interesting spiel about sheep-killing being a problem you have to deal with in the country, but again description of country doesn't involve beauty of nature...

okay here's a bit from ch11

"One Sunday afternoon he and Fay drove out to the Point, to the McClure's ranch. This area might someday become a state park, this wild, moon-like plateau that dropped off at the ocean's edge, one of the most desolate parts of the United States, with weather unlike that of any other part of California. For now however it belonged to the various branches of the McClure family and was used, like most of the land of the Point, for the raising of top-grade dairy herds. The McClures had already donated a stretch of coast to the state and this had been made into a public beach. But the state wanted the rest of their ranch. The McClures loved the area, loved their ranch, and the fight over the land had gone on for some time, with the issue still in doubt. Almost everyone in the area wanted to see the McClures keep their ranch."

comes close?

Ragle Gumm said...

Wow, that's all that's in Confessions?! The closest is this:
this wild, moon-like plateau that "dropped off at the ocean's edge, one of the most desolate parts of the United States"- but that doesn't sound like beauty, just dramatic. Have you driven from SF to Point Reyes, Mr Hand? It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful drives...
Nice work. This is gonna be a tough one...

No winner yet!

jesse willis said...

From the opening lines of UPON THE DULL EARTH:

"Silvia ran laughing through the night brightness, between the roses and cosmos and Shasta daisies, down the gravel path and beyond the heaps of sweet-tasting grass swept from the lawns. Stars, caught in pools of water, glittered everywhere, as she brushed through them to the slope beyond the brick wall. Cedars supported the sky and ignored the slim shape squeezing past, her brown hair flying, her eyes flashing."

ct-scan said...

The description of the garden from Gather Yourselves Together:

Presently, as she walked along, she realized that she was coming to the Company park. The park was in the center of the grounds. Here a wide lawn had been planted, paths laid, trees arranged, so that the appearance of nature was given among all the machinery, the excavations, all the refining and smelting processes that had gone on day and night. Barbara came to the lawn and stopped, gazing across it. It was a perfect lawn. No weeds grew in it, and at the far border flowers had been carefully planted in low rows, endless bright streamers of color, red and blue and orange and every other color there was.
She paused for a moment, hesitating. Then she hopped up onto the lawn and walked quickly across it. Some mounds of clover grew here and there. Bees buzzed around the clover, getting at the moisture inside. Barbara skirted around the mounts of clover, avoiding them. She came to the low rows of flowers and stepped over them. Beyond the flowers was a narrow path.
And beyond the path was the Company lake.
The lake was a basin of concrete, huge and round, set like a gigantic pie pan among the flowers, laid down and filled with warm water. The water sparkled blue in the sun, shimmering and dancing. Barbara crossed the narrow path to the very edge of the lake. She stepped up on the concrete rim, her hands on her hips, gazing across the lake to the other side. On the other side were trees, a grove of immense fir trees, planted in a careful straight line, each one of them trimmed exactly like the next.
It was nice, very nice. Even though it was somewhat artificial. Everything was so -- so perfect. The lake was round, exactly round. The trees were in exact formation. Even the flowers had been planted with care, according to innate geometrical concepts. Clover had got into the grass, but except for that - -
Yet, it was better than clanking machines and the smell of molten metals and slag. All day long the factories had clanked and whirred. The roar of the blast furnaces, the unnatural charring head. Furnaces withered life. Machinery devoured and destroyed, scooped up and burned away everything. The little oasis was much better than that.
Barbara stood for a long time, gazing across the lake. A slight wind blew, bringing a fine mist from the water, up into the air. The wind increased, and the mist moved across the water in a great sheet. It touched her, the sheet of fine mist, and she found it cool and exciting. She looked around to see if anyone were watching. How foolish! She was alone. She was as completely alone as the first person in the world. As she had this tiny bit of the Garden of Eden to herself. In front of her was the dancing lake, the surface moving with the wind. Above her was the sun and sky. Behind her the flowers and grass. She was surrounded by the garden. Cut off. Isolated completed from the rest of the world, if such existed.

Robert Cook said...

Frankly, I find descriptions of "nature" in fiction beyond boring. Unless kept to a strict minimum necessary to set a scene or mood, I find such descriptive passages tedious beyond utterance to plod through.

But then, I'm not one to really drink in the beauty of real nature, either. "That's nice," is about the most passion I can muster for your average natural tableau. (Unnatural or extraordinary natural tableaus can be of greater interest to me, though.)

I can give myself a tingle looking at the waves coming in and going out at a seashore, but less because of any intrinsic beauty they may have than for the awesome realization that the waves have been coming in and going out for billions of years before mankind ever existed, and will do so long after we're gone. (I find the scene on the far-future beach toward the end of Wells' The Time Machine to one of the eeriest and most gripping in all fiction.)

I have a feeling Dick also was not particularly moved by the beauty of nature.

palmer_eldritch said...

"It's a peculiar business, Doctor. You know, I struggled for years to get through. Training. I had to work and pay my own way. Washed dishes, worked in kitchens. Studied at night, learned, crammed, worked on and on. And you know what I think, now?"
"I wish I'd become a plant earlier."

'Piper In The Woods'