Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The New Yorker Discovers Philip K. Dick 25 Years After His Death

There was an online dust-up recently over the issue of whether there is such a thing as a literary establishment and how it shuns science fiction. Adam Gopnick's review/appreciation of the new Library of America omnibus volume of Dick's novels is certainly pertinent to that discussion.

One of the first things that everyone is inclined to say about Dick is that his subject and his mostly straight-to-paperback publication kept him from literary respectability, leaving him a neglected cult writer who is only now beginning to get his due.

On the evidence of the biographers, though, this doesn’t seem quite true. While he served a fairly long apprenticeship—a series of almost unreadable realist working-class novels that he wrote in the fifties are now back in print—and struggled to make money, from the time “The Man in the High Castle” won a Hugo Award, in 1963, he was famous, admired, and read. He wasn’t reviewed on the front page of the Times Book Review, but so what?

This reeks of cluelessness in so many ways it's staggering. Famous? Being known and read by the subculture of science fiction fans and fellow writers in the 60s and 70s hardly constitutes fame as most people understand the word. Recognition in the form of a glowing, front page review in a major newspaper or magazine, could, at least in the past, elevate a writer from obscurity to fame with the attendant benefits. Christopher Isherwood's review of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles boosted him from the pulps to mainstream respectability.

It took the LoA's issuance of their Dick omnibus to occasion this piece in the New Yorker. What prevented them from doing it earlier? Don't answer, it's a rhetorical question.

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