Mr. Dick...we're ready for your close-up.
May 6, 2007 6:14 PM   Subscribe

Moving up the cultural cred ladder (first the Science Fiction crowd, then Hollywood) the late Philip K. Dick is recognized by his own Library of America volume. NYT noticed too. Perhaps this is karmic compensation for the recently released, but poorly reviewed "Next".
posted by hwestiii (48 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nothing against PKD, but why bother collecting novels ine volume? You just end up with an expensive 800 page book.
posted by smackfu at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2007


Nicolas Cage in a poorly reviewed movie? Impossible.
posted by mattoxic at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2007


Was I the only one totally pissed off by the fact that Scanner Darkly (which is, IMHO, the single most faithful PKD adaption to date, although I haven't seen the Spanish "Confessions of a Crap Artist movie) completely left out the Clockwork Hash Man Going Through Customs scene?

"No, see, legends build. After a few centuries they'd be saying, 'In my forefathers' time one day a ninety-foot-high block of extremely good quality Afghanistan hash worth eight trillion dollars came at us dripping fire and screaming, "Die, Eskimo dogs!" and we fought and fought with it, using our spears, and finally killed it.'
"The kids wouldn't believe that either."
"Kids never believe anything any more."

posted by griphus at 6:46 PM on May 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


why bother collecting novels ine volume?

It makes for a more attractive display on a bookshelf when all the books have the same design. Not that I would do it but I have seen it and it is pretty impressive looking.
posted by srboisvert at 6:48 PM on May 6, 2007


Also: the Library of America books a terrific device, in my opinion, if you want to get into an author and not sure where to start. The trick is to wait until it comes out in paperback.

I don't completely agree with the choices they made for his novels as I don't consider it good form to throw a part of a trilogy into something not anthologizing it, but it's a great device for getting into an author when you don't know where to start. I own and love the Dashiell Hammett collection they put out.
posted by griphus at 6:49 PM on May 6, 2007


although I haven't seen the Spanish "Confessions of a Crap Artist movie)

It's my favorite PKD adaptation. You should see it.
posted by item at 6:52 PM on May 6, 2007


although I haven't seen the Spanish "Confessions of a Crap Artist movie)

It's my favorite PKD adaptation. You should see it.


Is this easy to find? I've never come across it, but then again, I've never looked too hard.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:58 PM on May 6, 2007


I just checked Netflix for it, but it's not out there. It's called "Confessions d'un Barjo," but I've been a-Googlin' and it seems pretty hard to find.
posted by griphus at 7:00 PM on May 6, 2007


Cue the critics explaining how PKD didn't actually write that icky SF stuff but rather novels that used alternate worlds and the like to explore ideas. 3... 2... 1...
posted by Justinian at 7:08 PM on May 6, 2007


It's called "Confessions d'un Barjo,"

When I saw it it was just called Barjo.
posted by Manhasset at 7:10 PM on May 6, 2007


From the trailer it seems like Next has very little to do with The Golden Man (the short story that inspired the movie). This isn't really surprising since movie adaptions rarely stick closely to their source. What I find interesting is that they chose to stick PKD's name on it, it seems so far removed from what happens in the short story that they could have just gone ahead and shot the script without crediting PKD and nobody would have noticed any similarity.

(it also seems a lot less interesting than the original,even if the original isn't a particulary good story to transform into a movie)
posted by coust at 7:14 PM on May 6, 2007






Hot chicks are truly impressed by bookshelves and will often mate with you solely based on the indexed volumes contained therein.
posted by Dizzy at 7:39 PM on May 6, 2007


Was I the only one totally pissed off by the fact that Scanner Darkly completely left out the Clockwork Hash Man Going Through Customs scene?

No. That was the best part of the book.
posted by martinrebas at 7:47 PM on May 6, 2007


Gene Wolfe is a much better writer.

/fanboy derail

posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:47 PM on May 6, 2007


After all these PKD adaptations, I'm amazed no one's done The Man in the High Castle.
posted by stargell at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2007


Well, he's much more on the fast-track than H.P. Lovecraft, who only got a Library of America volume in 2005.

Library of America is a step towards being canonical. First a LoA, then (unlikely) the teaching anthologies.
posted by LucretiusJones at 8:05 PM on May 6, 2007


It's really extraordinary that so many movies based on Dick novels and short stories simply have nothing to do at all with their supposed source material.

Why not just write the screenplay and skip the whole giving the Dick estate money part if no-one could ever see a connection? Is the PKD name such a huge draw at the box-office that people are willing to pay out for no other reason than having "Based on a Phillip K Dick Novel" on the posters?

Is there some kind of conspiracy here? Some vast and shadowy shift in the fabric of reality that no-one told me about?

A malicious clockwork mechanism that runs above and below us, smiling as it grinds upon us. Something that looks human and yet is (in some deep yet undefined fashion) is not?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:09 PM on May 6, 2007


I have the Lovecraft LoA book, which surprised me when I saw it on the shelf. It doesn't have anything "new," but all the Lovecraft I had was collected in the cheesiest-looking, most beat-up pulp paperbacks you've ever seen (although "Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre" is a great conversation starter) - so now I have a Lovecraft for the ages, sort of. I'm a book collector anyway, and a nice hardback feels and looks better.

So I imagine it's the same with the PKD collection, although there are already decent hardback collections out there...

in conclusion, (null)
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:28 PM on May 6, 2007


Gene Wolfe is a much better writer.

Michale Moorcock is my fave new-waver. When are we going to get an Elric movie so I can complain about them completely screweing it up, eh?

After all these PKD adaptations, I'm amazed no one's done The Man in the High Castle.

It's mainly his short stories earlier short stories that get adapted though. The later novels, i guess, would be a bit too thinky... though nothing makes me happier than Scanner Darkly being adapted.

(Oh, and Do Androids/Bladerunner, of course. No complaints there)

No. That was the best part of the book.

To me the most touching part of the book was the epigraph, which they did leabe in, and which seemed curiously out of place.
posted by Artw at 8:31 PM on May 6, 2007


This makes me happy. Now if they only give Delany the Nobel...

Also, I posted his two most hammer-to-the-head speeches to the blue a year and a half ago. I recommend them to anyone who like to feel like they've just been hit in the head with a hammer. How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later and If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others.
posted by Kattullus at 8:53 PM on May 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Artw- well, for me at least, the book works on two levels. One is the abject horror of drug addiction, both in the characters and in the real life circumstances in which PKD wrote the novel (he was living in some sort of meth commune at the time, AFAIK). The other level is the complete and absolute hilarity of the conversations. The clockwork hash man, "don't blame the drugs!," nine gears lying on the floor of a bike shop somewhere, etc. It's one of my top favorite novels of all time, and my single top favorite of the drug-world genre simply because there's an honest hilarity there that novels like Requiem for a Dream and Less Than Zero almost completely lack.
posted by griphus at 9:35 PM on May 6, 2007


Library of America is a step towards being canonical.

It's true. It shouldn't matter, really, but many of us who still harbor a bit of defensiveness about our more genre tastes can't help but feel a little "ha! told you so!" when someone we love gets a Library of America edition. For instance, I got into a semi-heated argument with a poet and a professor recently about whether Lovecraft counted as "classic fiction" or not. They both rolled their eyes, but when I discovered he'd gotten an LOA collection and waved that in their faces with a laugh, they were forced to rethink, at least a little. I mean, that is some fucking good company right there.

Sure, we all three thought it was funny/stupid that something like that made a difference, but none of us could deny that at some level, it did. And Phillip Dick deserves it as much as anyone like Nathaniel West (whose stuff I really like) or Raymond Chandler (ditto). And they chose four good ones for this collection. Does Lethem have an essay to go along with it? That was a disappointment in the Lovecraft volume - not even an attempt at contextualizing him.

Btw, the LOA's recent move into cool nonfiction is some of the best book news around.
posted by mediareport at 10:02 PM on May 6, 2007


I have tried and tried and tried to read Heinlein (Stranger), Dick (Do Androids Dream), and Delany (Babel-17, Empire Star).

I just can't get through it.
posted by four panels at 10:04 PM on May 6, 2007


four panels

You need better selections:

Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"

Dick - "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch"

Delany - any short story collection. Especially one that includes "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones"
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:15 PM on May 6, 2007


Thanks. I'll check it out. (I liked Dune and A Canticle for Leibowitz).
posted by four panels at 10:19 PM on May 6, 2007


Alan Moore probably beats out Philip K. Dick for source material that gets maimed when made into film. It's close, though.
posted by painquale at 11:57 PM on May 6, 2007


Childhood's End is the novel I'd most like to see as a movie; I know a script's been around since Moonwatcher first touched lucite, but it's had a longer life in development than HHGTTG. It's a very straightforward novel, so there's not that much to mess up, but is a lot less brainless than Close Encounters (and hasn't _that_ fallen off the cultural radar?). The CGI's ready.

Wonder if it's the depiction of the Overlords that makes people of a certain sort nervous for their money?

Anyway, can't stop. Just out to buy a slice of classic British SF that did get made and is re-released today on DVD.
posted by Devonian at 3:36 AM on May 7, 2007


Nothing against PKD, but why bother collecting novels in one volume? You just end up with an expensive 800 page book.

Actually, LoA editions are surprisingly inexpensive for what you get--it'll be cheaper to buy this book than four separate PKD trade paperbacks.

Does Lethem have an essay to go along with it? That was a disappointment in the Lovecraft volume - not even an attempt at contextualizing him.


For whatever reason, LoA editions (at least the standard ones with the black covers) never, ever have introductory essays.
posted by Prospero at 5:03 AM on May 7, 2007


Why not just write the screenplay and skip the whole giving the Dick estate money part if no-one could ever see a connection? Is the PKD name such a huge draw at the box-office that people are willing to pay out for no other reason than having "Based on a Phillip K Dick Novel" on the posters?

Yes. We woulnd't be talking about next if it wasn't related to PKD. I once heard PKD's film agent say that when licensing an author's work for film adaptations, it much more important that every licensed property becomes a movie in a timely manner (not stuck in development hell) rather then a few licensed boks get trned into movies that become hits. In other words, it increases the value of PKD's unadapted portfolio to have many books made into shitty movies (paycheck, impostor) rather than a few made into great ones (blade runner). See also, Stephen King. They aren't all Shinings and Shawshank Redemptions.

Sure, we all three thought it was funny/stupid that something like that made a difference, but none of us could deny that at some level, it did. And Phillip Dick deserves it as much as anyone like Nathaniel West (whose stuff I really like) or Raymond Chandler (ditto).

It certainly is silly that that works. I think at some point people have to acknowledge that books outside of their personal taste nonetheless have had an important impact on culture. You may think Lovercraft is an author of "penny dreadfuls" but most of American horror and science fiction literature find their roots in Lovecraft rather than his Gothic predecessors.

Childhood's End is the novel I'd most like to see as a movie; I know a script's been around since Moonwatcher first touched lucite, but it's had a longer life in development than HHGTTG. It's a very straightforward novel, so there's not that much to mess up, but is a lot less brainless than Close Encounters (and hasn't _that_ fallen off the cultural radar?). The CGI's ready.

Wonder if it's the depiction of the Overlords that makes people of a certain sort nervous for their money?


I just had a conversation about this book this weekend (maybe the other person is a closet mefite?)

My feeling is that Childhood's End missed it's chance. The whole premise of man evolving into pure energy is too reminiscent of those little "point of light" aliens on Star Trek that had its moment in the 90's, but has since passed. Futhermore the aliens=devils would require the movie to take on Christian mythology in a way that (a) Clarke's book didn't and (b) the majority of America isn't ready for.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:10 AM on May 7, 2007


This is a surprise and well deserved. It's too bad he's not here to see it. I guess LOA is trying to brush the cobwebs off its image a bit and that's cool with me.
posted by Skygazer at 8:01 AM on May 7, 2007


After all these PKD adaptations, I'm amazed no one's done The Man in the High Castle.

The thing with this one is that whilst it's his 'most literary' novel, it's not got the technological whizz-bangery, nor the drugged-out zaniness, that have featured in some of the other adaptations; thus is might not necessarily excite the studios. It's a slow-moving book, with lots that is internalised. In fact, I'd dread an adaptation which might focus too heavily on the Nazi dystopia element (like those Grindhouse-style movie posters linked over the w/e: "What if the Nazis were still alive! Uh! Yeah! See the atrocities!), and we'd lose the book's gentler focus on identity issues, and its shuddering, mind-addling conclusion.
posted by hydatius at 8:08 AM on May 7, 2007


My first response after seeing the LoA listing was "wow...their first volume of SF..." At the time I wasn't aware of the Lovecraft volume, but I've never really thought of him as science fiction.

So whose on deck? Ursula K. Le Guin would have my vote.
posted by hwestiii at 8:22 AM on May 7, 2007


So, as "editor," what exactly did Jonathan Lethem do? As above, he didn't write an intro, and presumably he wasn't sifting through alternate versions of the novels, right? So, did he just pick four of his favorite PKD books, and call it a day?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:03 AM on May 7, 2007


four panels - For Heinlein you coukld try his earlier short storys. That's the Heinlien I like. The two collections with Waldo and The Unpleasant Proffesion of Johnathan Hoag rocked my world back whren I first read them, but I never did care for bloated speachmaking later Heinlein.
posted by Artw at 9:18 AM on May 7, 2007


Prospero: For whatever reason, LoA editions (at least the standard ones with the black covers) never, ever have introductory essays.

You're right, now that I think about it. There are just short "notes on the texts" sometimes, aren't there? I guess that helps keep the cost down. Some of the nonfiction collections I've seen do have introductory essays, though.

Pastabagel: You may think Lovercraft is an author of "penny dreadfuls"

Er, read my comment again. I was the one arguing vehemently that he did indeed count as "classic fiction." I think his bizarre visions of the horrors of inner and outer space (not to mention race-mixing) clearly deserve a place in the American literary canon.

Devonian: Just out to buy a slice of classic British SF that did get made and is re-released today on DVD.

Don't get your hopes up and you'll enjoy it more. I just watched Things To Come a week ago and it's pretty ham-handedly bad, with just a few redeeming scifi elements - cool airships and some neat buildings, mostly towards the end. There's no concern for character at all, really, a rambling plot, clunky narration and lots of pontificating about the power of Science and Engineering to Save Us All. The whole thing ends up feeling more like an industrial propaganda film than a cool historic scifi flick, although it's worth seeing for its place in history alone, I suppose.

And there are some really cool futuristic construction scenes. And Raymond Massey's costume as he gets out of his little plane after the war is truly canonical. :)
posted by mediareport at 9:23 AM on May 7, 2007


mediareport - Wings Above The World!

Nothing sinister about the world being run by a self-0selected science elite at all.
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on May 7, 2007


Er, read my comment again. I was the one arguing vehemently that he did indeed count as "classic fiction." I think his bizarre visions of the horrors of inner and outer space (not to mention race-mixing) clearly deserve a place in the American literary canon.

Where I wrote "You" I wasn't actually referring to you. I meant it more as a generalized, nonspecific "one", in other words, there are people out there who think he's just an author of penny dreadfuls, etc. You could ask, "why did you just say one" and the answer is "I would have if I had proofread my comment, which I didn't".
posted by Pastabagel at 10:33 AM on May 7, 2007


And there I did it again - "why didn't you just say one"
posted by Pastabagel at 10:34 AM on May 7, 2007


So, as "editor," what exactly did Jonathan Lethem do? [...] presumably he wasn't sifting through alternate versions of the novels

IIRC, Lethem had some sort of capacity to go through Dick's estate, cataloguing various drafts and manuscripts, and bringing previously unknown works to light. This was independent of the LOA (and sounded like a pretty sweet job). I imagine that he was sifting through alternate versions of the novels: he might had have a hand in choosing editions, correcting for previous editorial mistakes, etc.
posted by painquale at 2:07 PM on May 7, 2007


Always thought Clans of the Alphane Moon would make a decent enough film. Nice set characters - dep or mans, or pares, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:35 PM on May 7, 2007


Of course there seems to be a Hollywood mandate that all vagurly genreish films be dumber than a sack of hammers these days, so it's not worth holding out much hope for, well, anything much that they get their hands on.
posted by Artw at 4:40 PM on May 7, 2007


I think this is a travesty. I like PKD alright, and I really like science fiction, but I don't think he deserves an LoA edition. I don't think that he's important enough or a good enough writer. That he happens to have written about some concerns that are central to our particular times doesn't do it as a qualification for me.

(I'm really not trying to piss anyone off, and this isn't a Your fave xxx sucks comment, but I care about the LoA and I think this a bad choice.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:30 PM on May 7, 2007


Clans of the Alphane Moon is kinda potentially horribly offensive, though. Which is sad, because it sort of has got the right amount of material for a movie, I think.

For me it is all about Dr. Bloodmoney. Post-apocalypse! Phocomelia! A subsumed twin! Sold.

From now on when anyone makes a terrible PKD movie, I think I'm going to start saying 'Needs more Perky Pat.'
posted by zusty at 6:38 PM on May 7, 2007


So whose on deck? Ursula K. Le Guin would have my vote.

I second that, and think it likely, eventually. I'd also like to see an edition of Bradbury. As it turns out, so would lots of other folks. Interesting to discover (at that link) that Hemingway has not been included. Quite surprising. Or Salinger. Or Fitzgerald. I could live without Kerouac, though.
posted by flotson at 8:59 PM on May 7, 2007


PS-- Your favorite iconic American writer sucks.
posted by flotson at 8:59 PM on May 7, 2007


Doubt this would have happened without Lethem. Oddly, I have a completely opposite view from OmieWise. I think it cheapens not LOA but Dick.
posted by Football Bat at 9:01 PM on May 7, 2007


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