Adam Gopnik on Philip K. Dick

Adam Gopnik does a superb job of writing about Philip K. Dick in this week’s New Yorker.

Dick is now in the Library of America ($35), under the excellent editorial care of Jonathan Lethem, a passionate devotee, who also provides an abbreviated chronology of Dick’s tormented life. Four of the sixties novels are neatly packed together in the handsome black covers: “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (the original of “Blade Runner”), and his masterpiece, “Ubik.”

As Gopnik notes:

Dick has also become for our time what Edgar Allan Poe was for Gilded Age America: the doomed genius who supplies a style of horrors and frissons.

but also he is right about this:

The trouble is that, much as one would like to place Dick above or alongside Pynchon and Vonnegut—or, for that matter, Chesterton or Tolkien—as a poet of the fantastic parable he was a pretty bad writer.

I loved Dick’s novels when I was both younger and not so well read. Years later, going back to read them, I was still impressed by the imagination and ideas. But the writing kept distracting me with its faults.

So, should you ignore the article or the novelist? On the contrary. Either pick up the latest edition at your favourite newsstand, or see it online here: Blows Against the Empire: Books: The New Yorker.

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