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  •  That sounds like a just critique... (7+ / 0-)
    I get the sense that Dick is mostly a man of a million ideas and very little self-censorship, so the good ideas get thrown in with the bad as if he can't tell the difference.
    Many of his novels, like Ubik, read that way.  It's as if they are in the shape and form of cheesy scifi novels -- and in that sense they can ultimately disappoint expectations -- but they usually end up as a vehicle for his meandering, with the endings seeming to emerge from the end without prior planning.  No master plan drives his novels from beginning to end.  The twist at the end of Ubik, for example, seems to be something pulled out of his ass so he could.  A lot of hive novels have that "ending pulled out of his ass feel to them." sometimes deliberately insulting to the reader's intelligence, as if to say, "I don't give a shit."  

    The way I describe it, I guess it would make people wonder why so many of us praise him so.  I guess because it's often very, very entertaining reading that spins off the rails, often with humorous satire or political subtexts.

    I'm not sure if I would agree if his prose is awful.  It varies.  He was extremely prolific.  I read Ubik back when I was in my late teens, early twenties, and I can't remember being impressed with the prose style, just the stories.  But some of them really excel.  Through a Scanner Darkly, for instance, has a classic suicide scene involving a stoner/libertarian (I knew plenty of those when I was a libertarian, eons ago) who is also a narc.

    I found the Freck suicide ready for pasting at Pastebin:

          Charles Freck, becoming progressively more and more depressed by what was happening to everybody he knew, decided finally to off himself. There was no problem, in the circles where he hung out, in putting an end to yourself; you just bought into a large quantity of reds and took them with some cheap wine, late at night, with the phone off the hook so no one would interrupt you.

            The planning part had to do with the artifacts you wanted found on you by later archeologists. So they'd know from which stratum you came. And also could piece together where your head had been at the time you did it.

            He spent several days deciding on the artifacts. Much longer than he had spent deciding to kill himself, and approximately the same time required to get that many reds. He would be found lying on his back, on his bed, with a copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (which would prove he had been a misunderstood superman rejected by the masses and so, in a sense, murdered by their scorn) and an unfinished letter to Exxon protesting the cancellation of his gas credit card. That way he would indict the system and achieve something by his death, over and above what the death itself achieved.

            Actually, he was not as sure in his mind what the death achieved as what the two artifacts achieved; but anyhow it all added up, and he began to make ready, like an animal sensing its time has come and acting out its instinctive programming, laid down by nature, when its inevitable end was near.

            At the last moment (as end-time closed in on him) he changed his mind on a decisive issue and decided to drink the reds down with a connoisseur wine instead of Ripple or Thunderbird, so he set off on one last drive, over to Trader Joe's, which specialized in fine wines, and bought a bottle of 1971 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, which set him back almost thirty dollars--all he had.

            Back home again, he uncorked the wine, let it breathe, drank a few glasses of it, spent a few minutes contemplating his favorite page of The Illustrated Picture Book of Sex, which showed the girl on top, then placed the plastic bag of reds beside his bed, lay down with the Ayn Rand book and unfinished protest letter to Exxon, tried to think of something meaningful but could not...

    It gets funnier as he survives and has a bad trip.  Scanner Darkly is a good example of a plan-free novel that just meanders interesting places and makes you keep reading.  The characters are great.  Unfortunately, people who saw the Keanu Reeves, Wynona Rider flick didn't get the full effect.

    I understand Ubik is in planning for a film.  I don't worry that they'll ruin it.  There are too many ways it could be turned into a film, although no two ways would be consistent with each other.  I'm not sure why Ubik gets such good press.

    •  Sorry, I should definitely clarify that: (6+ / 0-)

      I thought the prose in Ubik was awful, but I've heard - and this lines up with what you've said - that it varies wildly and maybe sustains itself best in A Scanner Darkly.  I'll probably get to that one next - I don't own a copy yet, but they've been pushing a lot of Dick at my local bookstore (there's really no way to make that sentence not sound dirty), so maybe I'll pick it up on the next trip.

      Thanks for the recommendation!

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 06:53:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Could be worse. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, pico, Youffraita, ferg, RiveroftheWest

        You could be a Dickhead.  Or addicted to Dick.  

        Was watching Food Channel yesterday with my brother, one of the reality food competitions, and one contest judge said of a contestant's dish, "This is the worst thing I've EVER put in my mouth!" We had fun coming up with retorts to that.

        I most highly recommend Flow my Tears by Dick.  Also, Man in the High Castle (Hugo best novel winner) and Deus Irae (co-written with Zelazny).  

        I loved The Simulacra, and gave that one away a couple of times, although I don't think most people would put it amongst his best.  

        Thinking about this just now, it strikes me how much Philip K. Dick resembles the character Kilgore Trout, the (fictional) novelist often mentioned in Kurt Vonnegut's books.  Vonnegut described Trout as a writer of cheap pulp science fiction, not terribly well written, but with weird ideas.

        From Slaughterhouse Five: "“Jesus--if Kilgore Trout could only write!" Rosewater exclaimed. He had a point: Kilgore Trout's unpopularity was deserved. His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.”

        •  I've never read Dick (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfk, MT Spaces, Mnemosyne, Dumbo

          but yeah, The Man in the High Castle is definitely considered one of his best by those who have actually read him.


          From Slaughterhouse Five: "“Jesus--if Kilgore Trout could only write!" Rosewater exclaimed. He had a point: Kilgore Trout's unpopularity was deserved. His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.”

          Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

          by Youffraita on Wed Jun 12, 2013 at 08:48:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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