Marxist Literary Critics Are Following Me!

May 27, 2001 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Marxist Literary Critics Are Following Me!
"Several months ago I was approached by an individual who I have reason to believe belonged to a covert organization involving politics, illegal weapons, etc., who put great pressure on me to place coded information in future novels 'to be read by the right people here and there,' as he phrased it. I refused to do it."

How Philip K. Dick betrayed his academic admirers to the FBI.
posted by lagado (11 comments total)
Aman unwell. A sad Dick.
posted by Postroad at 7:20 AM on May 27, 2001

I had always heard that the CIA wrote Radio Free Albermuth. I don't know why Dick would be jealous of Disch, Camp Concentration was okay, but does not even rank with Dick's lesser more incoherent work.
posted by thirteen at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2001

Kinda sad, but I think the word "betrayal" may be a bit strong for the ravings of a decreasingly sane man. (Along the same lines, nobody's taking Dave Sim's ravings too seriously.) He may as well have said he was overhearing spy instructions on his dental fillings.

My favorite PKD is The Man in the High Castle; when I read it, it was the only one of his books in print in hardcover. His rep certainly has soared, though there's a more mature view of sf these days. Dick was a premier fantasist.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 AM on May 27, 2001

Dick also thought that someone -- possibly Nixon, I don't remember and I don't have easy access to a Dick biography -- had hired the Black Panthers to blow open his safe to get at his manuscripts. His work is brilliant, but I think Disch is right about his grasp on reality being tenuous by the early 1970s. (Which is when he wrote my favorite PKD novel, The Divine Invasion, although The Man in the High Castle is awfully good.)

And there's a reason people saw him as an anti-establishment writer (other than his work) -- Dick had very strong anti-war sentiments (fictionalized in Radio Free Albemuth):

"At Berkeley my anti-war convictions were actually the reason why I had to drop out. It was just before Korea, you had to belong to the military training corps. I disassembled my M1 rifle and refused to reassemble it – it’s probably in pieces to this day because I dropped one small piece inside another so no one could get it out. I was very left wing.

(Quote from this PKD article.)

Of course, he goes on to talk about how the subculture (c. 1974) is so dangerous that he has to carry a gun...
posted by snarkout at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2001

Dave Sim really has lost it.
posted by thirteen at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2001

It is possible that Dick did as the author "Jeet Heer" claims, but of course Heer provides absolutely no evidence in the form of FBI or PKD documents.

There's traditionally been a lot of turgid rumor and disinformational screed surrounding Dick, including greasy political quasi-history of this ilk. Rarely are documents produced.

One day someone without an agenda will care enough to bring evidenced realism to the tale of Dick's life and blow all this pallid innuendo and hangover imagineering out to sea.
posted by Twang at 1:54 PM on May 27, 2001

Well, keeping in mind that this is the same Dick who wrote The Great Satanic Conspiracy after having an unfortunate combination of Sodium Pentathol, Methamphetamine and Vitamins in Megadose...his perspective on reality shifted from the Iron Prison House to the Zebra fairly often...I still don't buy that he deliberately hurt anyone who read his work. I'm with Twang on this one.

After having read The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, I think Dick was sane up until he end. He was just seeing too much at once.
posted by Ezrael at 4:32 PM on May 27, 2001

"It seems to me that by subtle but real degrees the world has come to resemble a PKD novel; or, put another way, subjectively I sense my actual world as resembling the kind of typical universe which I used to merely create as fiction, and which I left, often happily, when I was done with writing."
posted by lagado at 7:10 PM on May 27, 2001

I personally feel that the art of being not only a writer (one which through constant work I aspire to enter into fully and give up all other trappings of boring employment), but also a published author is an increasingly difficult one. Walking a fine line between madness and genious is the aspiration of many writers I have met.
Being an author is without a doubt, a truly insane lifestyle of weaving lies within lies and selling them as another kind of truth.
Between failing mental health and severe mind expanding drug use, I cannot doubt that Dick would easily fall prey to his own worlds of fantasy. The harder you try to convince your reader of a particular reality, the more you must be able to be one step ahead, always around the next corner, always weaving the edges unseen.
I wonder if I myself am sane after all the stories I have worked hard to weave.
I feel bad for Mr Dick, yet I feel, as earlier statements have suggested we should leave his sad life out of our judgement of his well crafted work.

If we all could be so lucky as to have a fantasy life so vividly real as to spring full form into our existence.
......gimmie a white rabbit to chase any day, synthetic or otherwise.
posted by Azaroth at 9:53 PM on May 27, 2001

It is possible that Dick did as the author "Jeet Heer" claims, but of course Heer provides absolutely no evidence in the form of FBI or PKD documents.

That's true although these documents are not terribly hard to find. For example, you can take this (apparently obtained under FOI) one for what you think it's worth.
posted by lagado at 10:03 PM on May 27, 2001

Here's a great quote from the article:
For the New Left critics, the whole Pink Beam episode was an embarrassment and they never talked about it. It was just another wacky, tawdry Dick thing.
If only PKD had language skills like that, I might have more time for his books.
posted by ericost at 10:02 AM on May 28, 2001

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