16 January 2008

The Transmigration of Philip K. Dick

The novel is not my favorite literary form, as the payoff in esthetic pleasure or insight rarely justifies the time it takes to read one (or so it seems to me anyway). When i do curl up with a novel it's usually something by an author i've been reading for 30 or 40 years without being often disappointed. One of those is Philip K. Dick, whose reputation is still growing 25 years after his death (thanks in part to some film adaptations (my own favorite being Linklater's A Scanner Darkly).

Without even trying to say what it is about Dick's work that keeps me coming back for so many years, i'd like to put in a word for The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, one of his last works, which for some reason i'd missed until now. It's unusual, for Dick, in that it has no science-fiction elements at all. (It's set in the San Francisco Bay Area during the time when he lived there, and the first-person narrator works in a record store, as he did.) Most of his novels and stories use SF motifs, especially simulated humans and alternate realities, to explore the human psyche while keeping the reader ontologically off balance, as it were. This one proves that he didn't need the SF trappings to spin a compelling psychological/philosophical yarn. And much of it throws a strong light on the triadic relationship among books, readers and reality—which my own work in progress is also about, to some extent.

If you're interested in the early Christian period and the apocryphal scriptures of that time, as Dick was in his final period (e.g. VALIS and The Divine Invasion), i would especially recommend this one as a novel well worth spending a night or three on. It might even change your life, as a scripture should … or maybe show you why your life doesn't really change …


Mark Leslie said...

I've read and loved many of Dick's works - I particularly enjoy his short fiction as well - but didn't realize he'd done non-SF work. I'll have to check this out - thanks for the recommendation. :)

Marian said...

I like K Dick too and he has an interesting view on the future , tht seems different from what we are used too .