Saturday, July 27, 2002

The waver waving purpling wands

I've been reading quite a lot of Philip K. Dick of late. I was surprised to learn, in a little biographical blurb, that he wrote 35 novels in his lifetime; I've recently gone through Dr. Bloodmoney, The Man in the High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and Ubik, along with numerous short stories. When I was just a wee lad living on a diet of science fiction and candy, Dick was one of my favorite authors (along, alas, with Larry Niven). Returning to him, I was pleased to find that I really enjoyed his fiction, and that he is a much deeper writer than I'd assumed he was.

I'm also reading The Underground Man, Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf, and The Odyssey, which maybe has something to do with why I'm able to get so much enjoyment out of the mostly plot-driven Dick novels, and why I'm able to get through them comparatively quickly.

Take a gander at this paragraph from Time Out of Joint, the one I'm currently on. This occurs slightly after Ragle Gumm watches a soft-drink stand slowly dematerialize, to be replaced by a slip of paper bearing the words "Soft-Drink Stand":

Central problem in philosophy. Relation of word to object... What is a word? Arbitrary sign. But we live in words. Our reality, among words not things. No such thing as a thing anyhow; a gestalt in the mind. Thingness... sense of substance. An illusion. Word is more real than the object it represents.

Word doesn't represent reality. Word is reality. For us, anyhow. Maybe God gets to objects. Not us though. (p. 60)

(Most of the prose isn't in this overwrought style.) What's interesting to me, other than the extremely concise definition of semiotics, is the notion that "Word is reality" is literally true for a character in a novel. Oftentimes Dick's characters seem to sense something like this, and one way or another reality is rarely what it seems. Overall the passage is strongly reminiscent of Michel Foucault, and in fact Dick has many hallmarks of (*cough*) postmodernity. There were many times during my reading when I thought I'd stumbled upon a lost Thomas Pynchon novel.

I'll try to post more of a review/analysis type thing later on. My Philip K. Dick soundtrack has been the 9 Beet Stretch, which is somewhat reminiscent of Blade Runner's soundtrack. It's got just the right mixture of desolation and transcendence, and is my favorite online audio find since SpamRadio.

Friday, July 26, 2002

The blog that waren't

Despite all appearances to the contrary, I've been attempting to update this blog, but technical difficulties have made things difficult. In the interests of keeping the blog updated, I have been reading Philip K Dick, I got a metafilter account, and I'll be back to edit this post later on.