Nation of Tire Sale (tdaschel) wrote in philipkdick,
Nation of Tire Sale

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Humpty Dumpty (in Oakland)

this is the 7th of PKD "straight" novels i have any familiarity with (we're counting Timothy Archer here, one that usually - on account of chronology - gets umbrellaed differently...). criteria i'm using is ... How did i feel at the end? almost.always a weak PKD novel (Cosmic Puppets, Frolix 8) has *something* going for it 'cause we readers have some interest in the author's Psychology. fine ... and i didn't have for the first hundred pages or so much hope for this one. but in its own way it's as HOPELESS as the horrifying Maze of Death / and much else besides. and as a "topical" "race" novel, this one has far more to offer than either The Crack in Space or Ganymede Takeover). it is - how do the Cosmic Drug Brothers say? - organic.

Al Miller, used car salesman, is one of PKD's most profound, most charply etched Losers ... and that's saying a lot. the Greek wife of the old man who owns - and later sells - his car lot is the voice of the Great Books Series. in the America of that time she is a veritable font of wisdom. the book is straight West Coast Realism and completely fucking insane (inhabits the same dreary, backward falling world of Repo Man). a-and speaking of 80's classics,

Nor was that all. Why had they hired him? Why did they want him? Because he had somce from St. Helena; That was the extent of it. He had nothing else to offer that interested them, no talent or experience; only his rural background.
"Suppose it turns out I lied," he said suddenly. "Suppose I wasn't born in St. Helena; suppose I was actually born in Chicago."
Knight said, "We checked up."

...recalls Sam Lowry's first day on the job at Information Retrieval. Sam is aghast when the man at the desk ignores his proferred ID when he enters the building, allowing him to pass on through:

"But I could be anybody."
"No you couldn't, sir."

not interested in posting any "spoilers," but as a West Coast novel this one runs like a less smooth, more paranoid Raymond Chandler and is guaranteed to activate the pleasure-centers of all the French Marxists PKD was always turning into the Feds while zoning on a late-night bowl with a glass of wine (it was California / he didn't consider marijuana a drug).
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Did you like the book or didn't you? I'm confused
i feel like the lady who went to the orgy, thoroughly enjoyed the exotic oils an' drugs, but forgot to get LAID (either that or the Steve Simels review of, um, EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER IN CONCERT where he does a spot.on impersonation of Lovecraft, but neglects to tell us whether or not he actually LIKED the album).

anyway, if we're using a "10" scale, i'd give this one a 7 (rather than Lawrence Sutin's 4).

thanks !
You've read Confessions of a Crap Artist?
...*too* long ago. the only PKD i recall as being specifically Chaucerian.

the one i'll prolly next is ... Mary and the Giant (there's a copy in a local library). all i remember about it is how it was closest to being PKD's "jazz novel" (kind of an absurd concept given that Dick didn't particularly care for jazz). the "Beat" conceit of black horn player as Hero (from Kerouac to Pynchon's McClintock Sphere...). as i *tried* to suggest in my original post, Humpty Dumpty is less *forced* in its proceedings. w.r.t. race-relations, here is an instance of Dick portraying something more natural than, say, the attitudes expressed in Kerouac's The Subterraneans (inverted colonialism is still a form of colonialism, y'all).

out of the bloo, i'm recalling a remark by S.R. Delany:

What people claim to like about Dick is his constant interrogation of reality: What you thought was real is always turning out to be illusion [...] But what remains solid underneath it all is the liberal ideology beneath the material uncertainty: and that's very reassuring to a certain readership.

[ of course Delany is going at "liberalism" 30's style from the Left ]

maybe some readers enjoy that aspect of Dick - the interrogation of alleged "reality" - but his skills at characterization are sometimes remarkable and his ability at portraying male/female bickering are like nothing else (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf perhaps). but let's give Delany his view: perhaps Dick is the most skilled exponent of the "ontological center." fine -- then He, not John fecking Updike, should be regarded as the ... Everydude of that forced union known as "America."

anyway, what is my criteria for judgment? which of the novels do i most believe in? hovering twards the top, i'd say Flow my Tears. it's one of those i waver between wanting to see cinematically treated and praying that they Never Touch...
thanks for the writeup. i've been meaning to read the rest of the straight novels (i've got through half) and I'm quite interested in PKD as a "california writer" (spending as much time in berkeley, marin and sonoma counties as I do, as well as reading so much other weird california writers from that time)/I'm also quite fond of PKD pot stories (like in the collected letters -- need to stop smoking joints at night and seeing jesus)
A flapping sound made him pause at the corner. Behind him, at top speed Earl McKeckney came running along the sidewalk backward. He did not bump into anything, but veered as he came to each telephone pole and wall; He reached Al, danced around in a circle, and continued on, still backward, still avoiding all things.
"Hey," Al said. "How do you do it?" Perhaps the kid had memorized the position of every object on the block.
Not stopping, Earl yelled, "I got my ring." He held up his hand, on his finger was a ring with a bit of glass in it, a mirror. "My Captain Zero Secret Periscope Ring." Eyes fixed on his ring, facing Al, he departed, hurrying deeper and deeper into the darkness, until he at last was gone.

reminds me of a song collected by the comedy team of Deleuze an' Guattari:

Paul Morand's Monsieur Zero flees the larger countries, crosses the smallest ones, descends the scale of States, establishes an anonymous society in Lichtenstein of which he is the only member, and dies imperceptible, forming the particle 0 with his fingers: "I am a man who flees by swimming under water, and at whom all the world's rifles fire ... I must no longer offer a target."