My Continuing Adventures with PKD

May 18, 2015 at 6:31 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

P1030835Solar Lottery.

It wasn’t my favorite, but I suppose they can’t all be.  It was PKD’s first published novel, and it feels like it.  Not because it isn’t good, but because it’s so very typical genre.  There was a lack of bravery in it.  It’s plot pointed.  It’s correct.

I fell in love with PKD’s writing because it wasn’t confined to a formula, because he didn’t seem to care whether or not the plot points occurred when they were supposed to.  It is why Clans of the Alphane Moon is my favorite of his work so far.

The same week I read Solar Lottery, I also got a DVD I requested from the library:

MV5BMTg0MTIyOTExMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDU1ODMyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick.

It was an interlibrary loan from a college – what I call my “super fancy request” because it has a $3 a day late fee.

It looks like something they’d show in a high school class.  I say high school because I always thought showing videos in college courses was a lazy prof’s way out.  (You should require students to watch something, then discuss in class.)  Also, because by the time I got to college cheesy 90’s videos were being replaced by updated videos.

As I watch the video, I keep thinking how much I’d rather be reading the content in a book than be viewing a documentary.  I suffer from a plight the majority of my contemporaries will never understand… watching things on a screen is far more tedious to me than reading them.

Also, as I’m watching, Solar Lottery slips away from my mind as my most recent PKD experience (of slight disappointment) and all the reasons I adore PKD flood back.

There’s a cheesy cartoon of PKD moving his mouth to Phil’s actual audio responses, recorded when he was still living.  This would be cool if I didn’t feel like I was watching Southpark.  It’s hard to focus on the documentary without closing my eyes because a headache is starting to form behind my eyes, another reason why I don’t watch a lot of tv but can read for days straight.

I’m glad I’m listening, though.  There are so many things about him that fascinate me.  The break in to his safe, for instance.  People relate this tale in direct correlation to his drug use and having an unhealthy level of skepticism for the world around him… then the police thought he orchestrated the explosion himself… to which his supposedly drug addled mind thinks, “Maybe I did…?  What would my motivation have been?”

They attribute all of this to a novelist’s mind on drugs.

How is this not just a normal human response to an accusation?  I have these spin off thoughts nearly every moment of every day.  I’ve written entire novels in my head based on an accusation.  My first published novella was born slightly out of a similar strain of thought.

I may not be drug addled.  I may not be as prolific or clever.  But I do think, had I ever met PKD in person, we may have been friends, at least I think I would have liked him a lot.

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Hope and Mirrors (Clans of the Alphane Moon Review Part Two)

May 5, 2015 at 11:21 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Unknown“[…] we’ve lost her. Nobody can claim this woman for long. It’s just not in her nature, in her biology.”

“She, as well as he, as well as everyone […] struggled for balance, for insight; it was a natural tendency for living creatures.  Hope always existed […]”

That line hit me like a train.  I loved it.  I loved the twist in Mary’s character. I love the terrible beginning and the hopeful ending in the midst of far worse circumstances.  I just got a tattoo last month “I am half agony, half hope.”  Hope in the midst of agony and agony that leads to hope is my mantra.  I loved this moment of humanity so brilliantly expressed.  The fact that I have a Jane Austen tattoo and binge read Philip K. Dick may not seem like two cohesive characteristics to other readers, but to me few other writers have grasped humanity so cleverly.

I have loved all of PKD’s work, but Clans of the Alphane Moon (four Philip K. Dick books into my discovery) just might be my favorite so far.

I said so to a fellow Dick fan and he said, “Funny, that’s one of his most disliked books.”

“Really? Why?”

“I don’t know.  From what I’ve read a lot of people criticize the plot.”

I looked into this, of course.

“Just as Phil breaks the rules of reality, he also breaks any and all literary rules at the same time. The result is a Dick vision presented in an inconsistent story that is not fully developed.” – Jason Koornick, http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/reviews/review-by-jason-koornick-clans-of-the-alphane-moon-1964/

I’m not a plot person. I don’t care about plots.  I like well written people and unusual circumstances.  I like to learn something new about the world around me and myself.  I could care less whether or not the story moved the way it *should* have.  Maybe this is why I like Dick.  He doesn’t seem to give a rats ass about the rules of writing.  He just tells his stories.

Koornick proves this bookish faw of mine when he writes, “Let us not forget that the most memorable moments of many of PKD’s best (and worst) novels are the “situations” rather than the characters or plot development. It is on this level that Clans of the Alphane Moon succeeds.”

If you’ve read my own published novella (nothing nearly as good or even in the same realm as any PKD story), you’ll see that plots are not my strong suit and that open ended ambiguous endings are my favorite.  I have no problem leaving someone hanging and asking for a wee bit more.  I’d rather be asked for more than be told, “Oh my gosh that story just wouldn’t end!”  Even if that means I jump to a random conclusion without spoon feeding anyone.  *SPOILER ALERT* So Mary and Chuck reconcile for no clear cut reason.  That’s marriage.  You don’t have to have a clear cut reason for making it work.  You just do – even if you’ve been screaming bloody murder for weeks (or years) on end… you have a moment and remember what you’re there for… even if it’s just a vague inkling of a thought you can’t express.

I like the ironies and the exaggerations in this one.  It mirrors my mind.  Constant ironies.  Always a hyperbole (or a thousand).  It may not be everyone’s favorite – it wasn’t even PKD’s favorite – but I like it a lot.

I think the most amusing thing about the novel, isn’t the novel itself but rather PKD’s own reaction to it:

“One night, after taking a great number of amphetamines, I sat up reading three novels of mine which I hadn’t read since the galleys: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON, and UBIK. Of the three, only UBIK struck me as having any worth. I genuinely enjoyed reading it. But STIGMATA merely puzzled me, especially the last scene & ending. CLANS had one good item: the robot-body programmed to attack Bunny Hentman’s rocket ship (along with everyone else intending to attack it but not doing so) — the robot attacking the ship all alone, and the people in the ship saying, puzzled, “Who’s out there attacking us?” Very funny, I thought… and then the horrible wonder came to me, saying, “But when I wrote it did I intend it to be funny?” I’ll assume I did.” [Selected Letters, Vol. 1, p. 294]

As soon as I finished reading, I handed my copy to the librarians to check in and re-shelve and pulled out Minority Report, which I read all at once.  Although, if I had read the above quote first, I’d have grabbed UBIK.  Solar Lottery, however, is next.

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I Dare You (Clans of the Alphane Moon Review Part One)

May 5, 2015 at 4:46 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Photo on 5-4-15 at 6.36 PM

On page 42 and I already teared up twice. should not make me so emotional.

Here I am still chronicling my emotional well being through Philip K. Dick novels.  I’m torn between telling myself to shut up and stop being a drama queen and diving into a full on crisis regarding empathy and my constant struggle to have some.  Sympathy is really my problem.  I can put myself in someone else’s shoes just fine, embrace, feel what they feel and all that – so a struggle for empathy isn’t truly my issue.  It’s sympathy I don’t have.  I won’t pity others, I won’t feel sorry for your plights.  I will consistently tell you to suck it up – I might also slap your ass and say “Go Team.”

The question is, should I pity and sympathize?  I was always taught those things were the most condescending things you could feel for another person.  But not feeling them seems to make me crass, blunt to the point of tactless, and generally unpleasant to those in my outer affiliations as well as my inner most circles.

“Tell me if I start to sound bitchy, because I don’t understand why ________ can’t get their shit together,” I told my Em over coffee.  I know how they feel, I understand the issues, the struggle, and still I’ve been there and I survived and I’m not any good with my feelings… I just don’t think anyone anywhere holds the license to struggle more than another, so stop whining and figure it out.  (Take note that I am completely aware that I am currently – and often – whining about this.)

“Ok, you’re being a bitch,” my faithful friend told me.

Fair enough.

Chuck’s wife, Mary, in Clans of the Alphane Moon is a terrible person.  I relate to her more than anyone in any of his novels so far.  So much so that when Chuck starts wanting to murder her, I started to tear up – again – because I see that she deserves his murderous thoughts, but I can’t see how she could possibly want anything different than what she wants.  She’s unfair, unforgiving, horrible for sending her daughter away, terrible in almost every way.  And I understand her.

In all this struggle for a empathetic balance, I am not sad that she might get murdered, I’m sad that she is the character I identify with. Am I a shrew? I don’t think so.  But I could be. It’s probably silly for me to take Philip K. Dick novels so personally.  Shouldn’t they be genre sci-fi candy to binge read? No. For some reason, every one is something I feel deeply about.  I run on two speeds… psychotically passionate for no reason and completely numb.

I dare you to read Philip K. Dick and feel numb.  I dare you.

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