Friday, August 7, 2009
Here's my Amazon review of FIREBRIGHT. I sent it both to REMEMBERING PHILIP K. DICK and to AN OWL IN DAYLIGHT on Amazon. Alas, I no longer write for The Hollywood Reporter. though I did a ten-year stint there.
Many thanks for the books. Since I just sent the review on Wednesday evening, it won't appear on Amazon until it gets read by them.
A STAR RISES IN THE AMERICAN LITERARY HEAVENS
While reading Tessa Dick's memoir PHILIP K. DICK: REMEMBERING FIREBRIGHT I turned down the ears of perhaps fifteen pages I meant to come back to and speak of when writing this review--but at last I was overwhelmed with questions. Nonetheless, as you can see, I give the book five stars for its corrections of the PKD myth and for a certain naiveté in the writing that adds to its interest. This is after all by the woman PKD married twice, lived with for most of his last ten years, and left as his widow. Her ingenuousness here and there should not disqualify the book from the PKD canon of commentary. How could it, although on Amazon she takes issue with Lawrence Sutin's biography of PKD, a book I've not read.
Tessa Dick at first seems saner than her fear-ridden and wobbly husband. But within a few pages after she marries him (she's 18, he's 42) she falls hip-deep into his paranoia and for much of the book seems as nutty as he. How do I mean nutty? It would be unfair to Tessa and perhaps to PKD himself for me to list their mass of shared illusions, since she often accepts them as just and sane. However, during their later years her interest in taking a few college courses makes him fear she'll find a younger lover and this thought drives him into leaving Tessa, renting another apartment, divorcing her and taking on another helpmate. But Tessa's soon back with him, editing A SCANNER DARKLY (which they worked on for eight years, and is perhaps his best written and most poised long work). She helps gather together what he completes of the VALIS trilogy and cares for him during all of his unending and relentless breakdowns. She makes clear that his breakdowns did not stem from drugs. She never saw him take an illegal drug during their marriage(s).
I won't describe Phil's phobias since she defends his lifelong raptness with them and tries to explain their sources. The reader even begins to believe that the U.S. government may indeed have been gathering information about Phil. I've read the government's stupid Cold War files on Arthur Miller and Norman Mailer from the same period and greater blunt-brained idiocy would be hard to find. All youngish and unread government agents who gather info and write reports about liberal and radical writers seeking change and yet have not read these writers' works are dunderheads. And PKD fearing himself on the FBI's Cold War hit list read their intelligence-gathering into every little twist of events.
She tells us that "Contrary to popular belief he did not churn out a complete novel every few days. He did type furiously for about three weeks, but he didn't even sit down at the typewriter until he had worked out the entire story in his head and in conversations with me and others."
None of the eight films made from his works gets her full approval and she points out their flaws, most often in the scripts, and yet admires the partial successes in BLADE RUNNER and the stunning A MINORITY REPORT and much of A SCANNER DARKLY. By the way, TOTAL RECALL (taken from WE CAN REMEMBER IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE) is now being remade, and she hopes it will be more faithful to Phil's vision than the Arnold Schwarznegger version (which I found quite enjoyable largely because of Arnold. Let me add that for me the single most powerful character in a PKD movie adaptation was that by Robert Downey Jr. as James Barris in A SCANNER DARKLY. Downey gives a master class in acting and making the text your own).
As for PKD's famous vision in 1974 that produced the unfinished VALIS trilogy, he'd had oral surgery and later been given Percodan for his pain. Earlier this year I broke a hip and was given Percodan and had the very same colored lights and shapes and dots that Phil had but I did not call them a divine invasion, as he did. But then I am not paranoid and my firebright sphere did not channel me to masters of the mysteries of the universe as did Phil's. And last summer when my cat lay down and died on the lawn I did not think that the cat had taken its death as one that was meant as a hit at me. In Phil's case his cat Pinky saved Phil from cancer. Tessa herself suspects that "Given the presence of powerful electronic equipment in the apartment next door, it is most likely that we were exposed to microwaves."
"Phil held two beliefs at the same time. First, human agents had brainwashed him. Second, demons had attacked him. They were not mutually exclusive. . . The demons, or the agents, might have followed him from San Rafael to Canada, abducted him and subjected him to both interrogation and mind control. We didn't worry about whether the demons were real, but only about whether we could stop the psychic attacks. . . "
"Phil theorized that we were actually living in ancient Rome . . . The world of 1974 was an illusion, and no real time had passed in almost two thousand years. The modern world was simply overlaid, resting on top of ancient Rome. The Empire never ended. He was informed of this fact, not only by his visions, but also by time travelers who instructed him. He said that they were hiding in the corners of our living room. . . Phil said that they were very timid and expressed shock when they realized that he could see them."
It's only fair that I mention that, despite being the second edition, this work is self-published and has many misspellings and errors that would not take place in a well-edited book. And yet Tessa Dick speaks often herein of proofing her husband's work, not to speak of the editorial authority lent to her by her master's degree and published stories and other literary work. Nonetheless, most of these textual mishaps cannot be defended. She has written THE OWL IN DAYLIGHT, a novel which I believe means to complete the VALIS trilogy pretty much as Phil may have meant it to end. I haven't read it but looking through it I sense its pages have gone through more rigorous editing.
I read PHILIP K. DICK: REMEMBERING FIREBRIGHT with interest and at times amazement. Library of America, by the way, has brought out three volumes of PKD's novels, edited by Jonathan Lethem, and in October will offer these three volumes boxed. That's pretty nifty; and even adds some heft to Tessa's books as commentaries on a star risen in the American literary heavens.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
A Guide to Your Extraordinary Secret Self
Arcturus Publishing Ltd., 2008
I feel obligated to begin by stating that I disagree with Anthony Peake’s theories about life after death and the sources of creativity. On the other hand, he does present his theories and the evidence for them in a clear and convincing manner. Moreover, he uses the examples of well known people to illustrate his concepts. The author draws upon cutting-edge physics, neuroscience, religion and philosophy. The most interesting aspect of this book is its study of the experiences of well-known people.
Of particular interest for the followers of this blog, is the fact that an entire chapter is devoted to Philip K. Dick. The index lists several other pages where he is mentioned.
The book chronicles Peake’s personal journey as an author and a seeker of truth. His theory about the Daemon and Eidolon explains such phenomena as déjà vu, precognition and the near death experience (NDE). He calls it Cheating the Ferryman, which is also the title of his web site.
Intuitively, it seems right that we are two persons in one body – the soul and the spirit, so to speak. In Peake’s theory, our conscious self is the Eidolon, an entity that knows nothing of any previous life. The other half of the person is the Daemon, the spirit which has lived many times before. This is not reincarnation, but rather reliving the same life over and over again, as soon as the life review begins at the moment of death.
However, I believe that it is much simpler to assign these experiences to the existence of a loving God who created us. I find it abhorrent to believe that the unfortunate people who have suffered death, torture and other forms of persecution would be forced to live that same life over and over. Consider the case of a child who dies shortly after birth – would that infant relive its few moments of life in endless repetition? And what of children who have been abused and then killed at a very young age? Do these helpless victims really want to relive that same life hundreds and thousands of times?
Let’s move on to the chapter about Philip K. Dick. Chapter 10, “Summary: One Man’s Experience”, looks at Phil’s extraordinary visions of March 1974. I won’t spoil it for you. I simply need to say a couple things. First, Phil did not have migraines – he had bad teeth that gave him pain. Second, he was not epileptic – he had multiple personalities. Third, it focuses too much on “Minority Report” and too little on UBIK.
Overall, this book is well worth reading, even for someone like me who does not buy into the theory presented in its pages. It contains a wealth of scientific data presented in a style that is easy for the lay reader to understand. It also gives us glimpses of the lives of people who saw beyond what we call reality to a more substantial universe.
~~ Tessa Dick
Erratum: On page 179, Peake states that Philip K. Dick died in 1981. It was actually March 2, 1982.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I will review the book on my main blog when I finish it.
My Main Blog
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
They treated the symptoms with pills and talk therapy. Depressed? Have some mood elevators. Agitated? Have some tranquilizers. Mix them all up and take them together. The drug cocktails seriously compromised his physical health, as well as his mental well-being. Tell me about your day. What are you doing now? Get off your tail and do something about it. They were telling a blind man to see, a legless man to walk. Today was not the problem. Deep-seated early childhood trauma blinded Phil and crippled him.
At different times, Phil acquired different labels -- whatever was fashionable at the time -- psychosis, neurosis, schizophrenic, manic depressive, bipolar, drug addict, whatever. I seem to have been the only one who even suspected the real problem -- associative identity disorder, also called multiple personality disorder.
Since then, one biographer has touched upon the truth. Gregg Rickman suspected and perhaps proved that Phil had several distinct personalities and that any one of them might not know what the others were doing. These separate personalities arose from several severe traumas in his early childhood.
Phil recalled becoming "Teddy" as a child, and playing with his imaginary sister Jane. His father, Joseph Edgar Dick, went by the nickname Ted. And then, later on, Phil witnessed the horrible death of a boy at summer camp -- Teddy got too close to the bonfire, and his paper costume caught fire.
He also recalled a severe trauma caused by a teacher at a boarding school when Phil was 7 years old. He refused to eat, and the school sent him home because they were afraid that he would starve to death. His mother sent him to a child psychiatrist, but Phil said that the psychiatrist made him feel guilty and dirty.
So it is no surprise that, in the course of his visionary experience, Phil became Thomas. This alternate personality lived in a first-century Christian community, a place and period which Phil had studied.
To my knowledge, not one single therapist ever even tried to help Phil deal with the pain that he continued to suffer, terrible pain that stemmed from early childhood trauma.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Just look at what they're saying at the Palm Tree Garden:
You can listen to the interview at:
Just click on the musical notes to listen.
Friday, June 12, 2009
They will call me at 4:30 p.m. their time, 8:30 a.m. my time, to talk about Philip K. Dick.
Their program (programme in British English) can be found at:
And please remember to check out my other blog
and find my post about the audio interview at Aeon Byte!
This spate of interviews is keeping me busy, happy and out of trouble.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Gnosticism both fascinates me and frightens me. It fascinates me because I crave knowledge. It frightens me because I fear losing my faith, which is quite fragile, I must admit.
The Lord called me when I was a child, but my journey of faith has been long and tortuous. I am already a heretic, or at least a backslider -- I rarely go to church -- but I cling to that thin thread of faith in the Savior who will lead me by the hand when my soul departs this body.
When I was 7 years old, my grandmother gave me a Bible. I was an early reader, and I used to read from that Bible at random before bed. I was fascinated by the story of King Solomon. When Solomon was still a youth, God offered him his choice of three gifts. He could choose only one -- great wealth, or great power, or great wisdom. When Solomon chose wisdom, the Lord was so pleased that he gave him all three gifts.
Gnosticism is the quest for esoteric knowledge, and it is not necessarily wise to seek such knowledge.
Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. This is clearly demonstrated in Paul's list of the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:8, where he lists wisdom and knowledge as separate and distinct gifts of the Spirit.
Regarding knowledge, let me point you to Philip K. Dick's favorite verse -- I Corinthians 13:12:
"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (King James version)
That verse inspired the title of my husband's novel A Scanner Darkly, and it also defined his life-long quest for knowledge. Phil's religious speculations and conclusions definitely had their roots in dualism, especially the Manichean heresy, but his quest was primarily that of a gnostic -- a seeker of esoteric knowledge. He also sought Holy Wisdom in the form of a woman, a character who appears in several of his novels, often under the name of Sophia, which means Holy wisdom.
The Nag Hammadi texts (discovered around 1979) were not available to Phil, but he did study the Dead Sea Scrolls, and he picked up a gnostic turn of mind through his close personal relationship with Bishop James Pike, the Episcopal Bishop of California in the 1960s. Pike was tried by the church for heresy, and although he won his case (as described in his book If This Be Heresy) he agreed to resign from the church. He was busy consulting mediums in an attempt to contact the spirit of his dead son, which led to Pike's book The Other Side. Phil and his wife Nancy attended one of those seances. Phil was convinced that the medium had contacted something, but that it was not human -- it was something evil, purely evil.
Toward the end of his life, I believe that Phil contacted something evil, and that it might have caused his premature death. Thus, I believe that gnosticism is dangerous. A little knowledge is good, but great knowlege can destroy you. Just look at the Faust legend. For 20 years, Faust had everything he wanted, but then he had to give up his soul to the devil.
I hope that my soul goes to Heaven when I leave this body, this wonderful animal that God has given me to carry me through this life. I thank God for this body, which bears my burdens, pains and sorrows, but I look forward to having a more perfect body in the next life.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
In Cheating the Ferryman, his latest work-in-progress, he posits that the two sides of our brain represent two separate persons, the earth-bound being and the spirit being. He terms the earth-bound being the "Eidolon" and the spirit being the "Daemon", following classical philosophy, primarily that of the ancient Greeks.
He proposes that when people experience deja vu, they are actually remembering the future. All of history has already happened, past and future, and time is an illusion, a mental construct that allows us to experience this world.
For more information, you can check out his forum:
It's very interesting.
~~ Tessa Dick
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The real question, I think, is why write it at all? I suppose that this is my effort to keep Phil alive in some small way. His books and stories keep him alive in the minds of readers, and the movies are nice, but what about the man who wrote those stories? Others have written biographies and presented their theories, mostly about Phil's madness. They do not present the man that I knew, the man who shared his life with me for ten years. I want to show you the man, not my theories about him.
"I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to
death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision
we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We
find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having
shared their love." ~~ Leo Buscaglia
Phil's body of work has left an indelible imprint on readers, and the time that he spent with me has left an indelible imprint on me. I hope to share that imprint with you.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
He used to ask everybody he met, including me, “Can toads talk?” I had a smart answer that frogs could talk, but toads could not. This question was actually a reference to the last line of the Carol King song “Tapestry”, which says, “and then he turned into a toad”. When Phil asked his psychiatrist whether toads could talk, Dr. Guido promptly noted in Phil’s chart that he was drunk. Phil was actually questioning whether animals have souls, or whether only humans have souls. If a man turned into a toad, would he still have a soul? Phil agreed with St. Francis of Assisi, who held that animals do have souls, and who used to go out into the woods and preach to the birds and the beasts.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Well, from the symptoms, which I will not describe in detail because some of them are disgusting, I am certain that he was suffering from a congenital gall bladder problem that our adult son also has. The diarrhea, the fatigue and other symptoms all cry out. And our son, just as his father did, suffered an acute attack of non-alcoholic pancreatitis. Phil always thought that his attack had been caused by drugs, but our son does not use drugs. In fact, he's a health nut and a licensed nutritionist.
After nearly dying, and then spending thousands of dollars on medical tests, Christopher learned that his gall bladder has a congenital defect, and that is why he suffers period bouts of "the flu". He is forced to send guests home, break appointments and lie in bed for two or three days at a time. Since he inherited this problem, and I do not seem to have it, he must have gotten it from his father.
So, Phil, I am very sorry for doubting that you really were ill.
~~ Tessa Dick
PS: My memoir, Firebright: Remembering Philip K. Dick will be available at Amazon dot com in a few weeks.
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