Why Novels are a Weird Technology and Constructed Realities
April 15, 2010 10:40 PM   Subscribe

hey, thanks.
posted by nicolin at 2:06 AM on April 16, 2010

Wow, cool. Thanks.
posted by nevercalm at 6:18 AM on April 16, 2010

"Dick‘s concerns were ultimately both epistemological and deeply moral — in the sense that a philosopher would use the word moral, not in the sense that, say, Joseph L. Breen would. You know, love, empathy, “what is human?” and so forth. For contemporary voyagers, these matters remain as Dick delineated them: exquisitely local, negotiated on the human-to-human, or human-to-self playing field according to an infinite number of variations and contexts. No sweeping paradigms will do here. We‘re all walking down the street conducting our self-Turing exams every time we pass a homeless person, or greet our spouse at the breakfast table."

Good stuff.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 6:55 AM on April 16, 2010

Great post. The Lethem edited LOA editions of PKD are wonderful. There's also a nice interview with PKD's daughter and Lethem. (PDF)
posted by HumanComplex at 8:00 AM on April 16, 2010

When I was a kid and I discovered Philip K. Dick, I felt that I‘d made this kind of soul mate contact with his work.

I had the same experience. I read VALIS, Divine Invasion, and Transmigration back to back when Vintage republished them, and they sort of blew my mind, as a writer, reader, and person.

The Lem translation was rough but interesting. I hadn't seen it before. Thanks. The Erik Davis article is fantastic and a can't miss if you haven't read it before.

This reminds me I need to read VALIS again. It's been 19 years.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2010

Great line on the "singularity" and how all our new tech may not be changing us as much as we think:

the proof is in the anthropomorphic homeliness that pervades the ostensibly exalted “media” in return. We humanize them, shame them, colonize and debunk them with our persistent modes of sex and neurosis and community and commerce. We turn them into advertisements for ourselves, rather than opportunities for shedding ourselves. At least so far.

Great post, thanks.
posted by freebird at 9:42 AM on April 16, 2010

Woo, this is quite a kinderegg of an FPP. Thanks, time to finally read Yancy
posted by Juicy Avenger at 10:39 AM on April 16, 2010

Quick side note: Erik Davis wrote the book for the Burning Man Opera "How to Survive the Apocalypse" which is currently doing some fundraising for dvd production at Kickstarter . The production was good, and some of the songs are just awesome.

Or, near as I can tell, Phillip K. Dick was a realist.
posted by emmet at 10:49 AM on April 16, 2010

Great post and terrific interview. I haven't ever finished a novel by Dick or Lethem, but I'm moved to read more by both. The interview articulates a lot of really cogent points that I haven't been able to put into words, myself:
JL: The reason I tend to write from the complicit point of view is I'm always struck by the deeply personal nature of the alliance we make with these opportunistic distraction mechanisms, the substitute realities that are offered to us, the way that we build ourselves into them. . . . [Dick] was always aware of his own wish- fulfillment impulses, his own yearning to be consumed and seduced. And it's why his role as a fiction maker and as a liar was allied to his fascination and distrust of fictional realities, of marketing realities, of commercial realities and political realities — because he saw that they‘re rooted innately in storytelling and in emotional necessity.
posted by cirripede at 6:04 PM on April 18, 2010

by doing this, you do achieve a kind of weird mind meld

re: novel technology, i was watching this DFW interview (ref'd here, mp3) where he talks about the "communion and empathy" he feels when reading, which i think helps inform discussions on games as art or, say, drinking...

in the interview he also talks about high-brow/low-brow literature (vs. entertainment) and i thought he might've found lem's take illuminating:
Whatever defers to current tastes becomes an entertainment which achieves success immediately or not at all, for there is no such thing as a stage-magic exhibition or a football game which, unrecognized today, will become famous a hundred years from now. Literature is another matter: it is created by a process of natural selection of values, which takes place in society and which does not necessarily relegate works to obscurity if they are also entertainment, but which consigns them to oblivion if they are only entertainment. Why is this so? Much could be said about this. If the concept of the human being as an individual who desires of society and of the world something more than immediate satisfactions were abolished, then the difference between literature and entertainment would likewise disappear. But since we do not as yet identify the dexterity of a conjurer with the personal expression of a relationship to the world, we cannot measure literary values by numbers of books sold.
oh and fwiw on a sunday...cheers!
posted by kliuless at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

also see...
  • Sven Birkerts: Reading And Writing
    The question comes up for me insistently: Where am I when I am reading a novel? I am “in” the novel, of course, to the degree that it involves me. I may be absorbed, but I am never without some awareness of the world around me—where I am sitting, what else might be going on in the house. Sometimes I think—and this might be true of writing as well—that it is misleading to think of myself as hovering between two places: the conjured and the empirically real. That it is closer to the truth to say that I occupy a third state, one which somehow amalgamates two awarenesses, not unlike that short-lived liminal place I inhabit when I am not yet fully awake, when I am sentient but still riding on the momentum of my sleep. I experience both, at times, as a privileged kind of profundity, an enhancement.
  • Steven Johnson: The Exponential Power of 140 Characters
    The overall increase in textual productivity may be the single most important fact about the Web’s growth over the past fifteen years. Think about it this way: let’s say it’s 1995, and you are cultivating a page of “hot links” to interesting discoveries on the Web. You find an article about a Columbia journalism lecture and you link to it on your page. The information value you have created is useful exclusively to two groups: people interested in journalism who happen to visit your page, and the people maintaining the Columbia page, who benefit from the increased traffic. Fast forward to 2010, and you check-in at Foursquare for this lecture tonight, and tweet a link to a description of the talk. What happens to that information? For starters, it goes out to friends of yours, and into your twitter feed, and into Google’s index. The geo-data embedded in the link alerts local businesses who can offer your promotions through foursquare; the link to the talk helps Google build its index of the web, which then attracts advertisers interested in your location or the topic of journalism itself. Because that tiny little snippet of information is free to make new connections, by checking in here you are helping your friends figure out what to do tonight; you’re helping the Journalism school in promoting this venue; you’re helping the bar across Broadway attract more customers, you’re helping Google organize the web; you’re helping people searching google for information about journalism; you’re helping journalism schools advertising on Google to attract new students. Not bad for 140 characters.
and btw: Long-form journalism - "Longform.org is collecting some of the best long-form journalism available on the web. See also Instapaper's editor's picks and @longreads on Twitter."
posted by kliuless at 12:12 PM on April 28, 2010

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