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Philip K. Dick’s ‘Exegesis’ Will Receive Two-Volume Release

By enquirewithin, May 4, 2010 | Updated: May 4, 2010 | | |
  1. enquirewithin
    After a lifetime’s worth of literature that explored the future, the farthest regions of space and the afterlife, a posthumous work by Philip K. Dick will take readers to a different alien terrain: the inside of the author’s mind.

    Mr. Dick, who died in 1982, was best known for existential science-fiction novels like “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” He also spent years of his life wrestling with what he considered religious visions that he began experiencing in the 1970s. He recorded his reactions to and attempts at deciphering these spiritual visions in a work he called the “Exegesis,” reputed to be 8,000 pages - or longer.

    Though few have read the work and fewer still have fully understood it, the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt plans to release “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick” in two consolidated volumes edited by Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson, a Philip K. Dick scholar, with the first to be released next year.

    Mr. Lethem, the author of novels like “Chronic City” and “The Fortress of Solitude,” and who has written frequently on Mr. Dick, said Thursday in a telephone interview that he hesitated to describe ”Exegesis” as a work.

    “The title he gave it, ‘Exegesis,’ alludes to the fact that what it really was, was a personal laboratory for philosophical inquiry,” Mr. Lethem said. “It’s not even a single manuscript, in a sense – it’s an amassing or a compilation of late-night all-night sessions of him taking on the universe, mano-a-mano, with the tools of the English language and his own paranoiac investigations.”

    In 1974, after a number of novels that explored the notions of personal identity and what it means to be human, Mr. Dick had a series of experiences in which he believed he had information transmitted to his mind by a pink beam of light. He wrote about these and similar occurrences in autobiographical novels like “Valis,” but also contemplated their meanings in personal writings that were not published.

    “It’s something that he talked about and created a kind of amazing aura around,” Mr. Lethem said, “so that people have an image of it as if it’s some kind of consummated effort. ‘I’m working on my exegesis.’ But what he really meant was, he was turning his brain inside-out on the page, on a nightly basis, over a period of years of his life.”

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which has also acquired the rights to 39 of Mr. Dick’s previously published works and will release them next year, plans to to release Volume 1 of “Exegesis,” which is about 350 pages, in the fall of 2011, and Volume 2, at the same length, a year later.

    Mr. Lethem described the books as a chronicle of the period in which Mr. Dick “pulled himself together again, as a writer and a human being.”

    “He’d been launched into outer space by the visions of the early 70s,” Mr. Lethem said, “and he was going to try to come back with the truth – and that, by definition is an impossible task.

    He added: “It’s absolutely stultifying, it’s brilliant, it’s repetitive, it’s contradictory. It just might contain the secret of the universe.”



  1. enquirewithin
    [imgl=blue]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=14504&stc=1&d=1272933667[/imgl]The journals of sci-fi author Philip K Dick will be published next year. The Exegesis, much anticipated by fans of the writer, will come out in autumn 2011, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt revealed. Dick, who died in 1982 at the age of 53, had 44 novels published. His first was Solar Lottery in 1955.

    He is best known for works including The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - the basis of 1982 film lBade Runner.

    Other films based on Dick's books include Total Recall and Minority Report.
    Dick's journals include descriptions of a series of "visions and auditions" he says he experienced.

  2. enquirewithin
    The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, a previously unpublished journal by the late science fiction writer, is due to be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in fall 2011, announced the publisher on April 29. The journal "serves as the foundation for ideas and themes that would appear throughout the work of this visionary author," says Bruce Nichols, Publisher of Adult Trade at HMH.[imgl=black]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=14506&stc=1&d=1272933812[/imgl]

    In 1974, Dick began having visions while under the influence of the analgesic sodium pentothal, which he had taken after having had his wisdom teeth extracted. These intense and lasting visions, which the author described as information about reality being transmitted to him by a pink beam of light, came to be known as the "2-3-74" experiences (for February-March, 1974) and would influence his later writing.

    Dick documented and analyzed his visions in a handwritten journal, called "Exegesis." (He also wrote partially about his experience in the autobiographical novel VALIS). Thousands of pages of that journal will be publicly available for the first time in the two-volume The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.

    Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson will edit the title. Lethem, winner of the US National Book Critics Circle award and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, is the author of eight novels and has published and spoken widely on Philip K. Dick. Pamela Jackson is the author of a doctoral dissertation examining 2-3-74 and Dick's "Exegesis" in the context of his life and fiction and has worked with the Philip K. Dick estate since 2008 to publish and preserve the "Exegesis."

    Philip K. Dick, who died in 1982, wrote 45 published novels and more than 120 short stories. Many of those works have been adapted into major films, including "Minority Report" and "Blade Runner" (based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). He was the winner of science fiction prizes including Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award.

  3. enquirewithin
  4. enquirewithin
    My copy of Exegesis I has arrived in the post. I will review it eventually, but it will take time!This from the web site Total Dickhead (yes, that's what Dick fans are called!):

    Can you imagine what Dick himself would make of today's review of The Exegesis of Philip K Dick in the New York Times appearing on what would have been his 83rd birthday? First, what would he think about its publication? I can't help but imagine that he'd be pretty pleased with himself. What would he think about the review?

    Well, it's impossible to say, but it is - I think - really important to notice that this review (done by none other than Charles Platt, a writer intimately familiar with Dick's work and weirdness) fails to say anything concrete about WHAT IT IS DICK IS THEORIZING ABOUT IN THE EXEGESIS! Sorry, but it kinda bugs me. Sure Dick is wondering what the heck happened during 2-3-74, but I would argue the Exegesis is much more concerned with fairly conventional theological questions: 1) If God is real, why is there so much suffering in the world? 2) Are our minds accurately perceiving the world around us, or are our instruments of perception faulty? Are our minds clouded by the seemingly important stuff like, you know, rationality, and all of that? 3) Does God exert direct control over our lives or is he a detached, uninterested observer?

    I think the review I'm waiting for will at least acknowledge that the 'endless theorizing' is broadly addressing these questions. And that Dick is taking part in what I consider almost conventional theology. Once you set these parameters, the book (and Dick's exegetical work) make a lot more sense. Charles Platt calls Dick's philosophizing 'tiresome.' I guess I would agree to the extent that it is exhausting to think about this serious stuff, and the diary-like entries make sussing out the outlines of Dick's theories all the more difficult, but you wouldn't call Spinoza's or Hume's work tiresome, or if you did, you would hedge the complaint by saying 'for the average reader' or whatever.

    I, for one, am enjoying watching Dick's 900 page meditation on the nature of the Universe collide with our society's predilection for ease and convenience. I enjoy watching real religious faith, in all its complications and doubt, set against the easy faith of modern, mega-church Christianity with all its feel-good intolerance. And I really appreciate Dick's hardbound reminder that the tough questions you ask yourself are the most important, and if reading Dick's Exegesis prompts others to ask these questions, the way it has for me, the endeavor is an obvious success. Even if it wears us all out and exhausts us.

    And this is a review from the New York Times. How PKD has gone up in the world since his death.

    The Voices in Philip K. Dick’s Head


    Published: December 16, 2011

    In 1979, I visited Philip K. Dick for a profile I was writing. In a modest apartment he shared with dusty stacks of books, deteriorating furniture, a vintage stereo system and a couple of cats, he took the opportunity to go public about a singular experience dominating his life. For the past five years, he told me earnestly, he had been receiving messages from a spiritual entity. “It invaded my mind and assumed control of my motor centers,” he said. “It set about healing me physically and my 4-year-old boy, who had an undiagnosed life-threatening birth defect that no one had been aware of. It had memories dating back over 2,000 years. . . . There wasn’t anything that it didn’t seem to know.”

    Edited by Pamela Jackson, Jonathan Lethem and Erik Davis.
    Illustrated. 944 pp. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $40.

    Dick had already written more than a million words of personal notes on this topic, he said, notes he referred to as his “exegesis” — a word that traditionally means an explanation or interpretation of Scripture. In his case, he was trying to explain the voices inside his head.

    The delusions of a penurious science fiction writer might seem of marginal interest, except that Philip K. Dick was not just any science fiction writer. Shortly after his death in 1982, his book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” became the movie “Blade Runner.” Since then, no fewer than 10 other motion pictures have been based on his work, including “Total Recall” and “Minority Report.” He is widely regarded as one of the most conceptually innovative writers in the 20th century, whose influence has been acknowledged by novelists from William Gibson to Ursula K. Le Guin.

    Even in his earliest stories, Dick wrestled with the nature of perception. As he described it to me, “I began to get an idea of a mysterious quality in the universe . . . a kind of metaphysical world, an invisible realm of things half-seen.” He could not accept the notion of a single, objective reality, and favored Jung’s concept that what we perceive as external may be an unconscious projection. When he tried to embed these ideas in serious contemporary novels, he found no market for them, and thus used science fiction as the unlikely vehicle for his philosophical questions.

    An example is his disturbing novel “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” in which colonists on Mars escape the deprivations of their environment by using a drug that opens a gateway to a shared, artificial reality. But Dick takes the concept a step further, suggesting this reality could be molded by the drug manufacturer; and then a step further still, as another entity competes to take over and manipulate the reality, along with the people in it. This reflects the other principal obsession throughout Dick’s work: his fear that a powerful person or group can change the perceptions and beliefs of others. He saw this process inflicted by politicians, religions and “authority figures in general.”

    After his death, the overlap between his hallucinatory experiences and the concerns in his fiction made him a tempting subject for academic study. He had been a college dropout himself, with little regard for academia, but he was no longer around to debunk the professors who analyzed his oeuvre. So it is that his “exegesis” has now been exhumed and published (partly, at least) as “The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick,” edited by Pamela Jackson, Jonathan *Lethem and Erik Davis, with assistance from several academics, including three theologians.

    The struggle of a highly intelligent man to find a rational explanation for something inexplicable inside himself could make fascinating reading, if it was thoughtfully organized. Alas, the “Exegesis” pursues its target in the manner of a shotgun firing randomly in every possible direction. Dick ruminates, cogitates and associates freely from one topic to the next. He mulls the content of his dreams, descends into labyrinths of metaphysical hypotheses and (ironically) wonders how he can ever use this material to create a publishable book.

    Nor does he succeed in explaining the source of his visions. Jackson and Lethem acknowledge it could have been merely a stroke, residual brain damage from drug use or temporal lobe epilepsy; but they seem unimpressed by such pedestrian possibilities. They insist that “to approach the ‘Exegesis’ from any angle at all a reader must first accept that the subject is revelation.”

    The trouble is, any revelatory messages are embedded in more than 900 pages of impulsive theorizing, much of which is self-referential. Dick typically floats a concept, criticizes it 10 pages later, criticizes the critique, then rejects the whole thing as a totally different notion enters his head.

    We receive no help from the editors in mapping this tangle. As Richard Doyle, a professor of English and information sciences and technology at Penn State, writes in his afterword, “When you begin reading the ‘Exegesis,’ you undertake a quest with no shortcuts or cheat codes.” Thus we’re on our own when we ponder sentences like “This *forces me to reconsider the ‘discarding and annexing’ process by the brain in favor of a proliferation theory,” or “So irreality and perturbation are the two perplexities which confront us,” or “I dreamed: I am the fish whose flesh is eaten, and because I am fat, it is good. (Bob Silverberg ate me.)”

    What’s missing here is context. From my interactions with Dick, I know that many of these musings were written while he stayed up all night, sometimes in an alcoholic haze, while perusing his favorite source, Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy (edited by Paul Edwards). He also retained a healthy sense of humor about his supposed tutelary spirit. “On Thursdays and Saturdays I would think it was God,” he told me, while “on Tuesdays and Wednesdays I would think it was extraterrestrial.

    Sometimes I would think it was the Soviet Union Academy of Sciences trying out their psychotronic microwave telepathic transmitter.”

    Fortunately, he retained this humor and self-skepticism when he grappled with his metaphysical ideas in his 1981 novel “Valis.” There he portrayed himself as an eminently sane observer, engaging in dialogues with a delusional alter ego whom he named Horselover Fat. A deity does enter the story, but the book’s theosophical concerns range from the sublime to the mundane, as characters ponder issues like why God allowed a much-loved cat to die. (The deity says the answer is simple. The cat should have known better than to run in front of a car. It died because it was stupid.)

    The “Exegesis” takes itself much more seriously, and becomes tiresome as a result. The editors note that Dick’s children, who are the heirs to his estate, weren’t entirely happy about its being published, in case it “attracted unwelcome attention and threatened to undermine their father’s growing academic and literary reputation with its disreputable aura of high weirdness.”

    Their worries were unfounded. The sheer mass of this folly will surely discourage most readers. Philip K. Dick’s novels — the works that he considered important and publishable — endure as the most fitting tribute to his intellect, his imagination and his willingness to acknowledge that when all is said and done, human existence may be nothing more than a cosmic comedy.

    by Charles Platt who has written more than 40 books of fiction and nonfiction, including “The Silicon Man” and “Dream Makers.”

  5. enquirewithin
    Philip K. Dick is that rarest of writers, having enjoyed a posthumous transformation from genre hack and marginal cult figure to established star in the literary pantheon. What were once drug-store SF paperbacks with lurid covers are now published in the prestigious Library of America series, while selections from a massive trove of unpublished jottings have been collected in a new, annotated and illustrated scholarly edition called The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick.

    "Exegesis" is a Greek word for critical explanation or interpretation, and it's the name that the hypergraphic Dick himself gave to a project that amounted to a pile of some 8 million words of handwritten and typewritten text (diaries, notebooks, letters) that he left behind when he died in 1982. Sorting through this must have been a Herculean labour, for which Dick's legions of fans owe the editors a great deal of thanks.

    What Dick was interpreting was his own fiction and dreams, by light of a revelation he received in February and March of 1974 (a totemic date that he usually rendered, a bit confusingly, as 2-3-74). Out of this revelation — that came, naturally enough, by way of a delivery woman — he constructed a jerry-built personal mythology that he then proceeded to plug all of reality into.

    Even those of us who love his work have to admit that while Dick had a brilliant and original imagination he could be a baffling, repetitive, and downright sloppy writer. The Exegesis takes these qualities and multiplies them exponentially. One can't even explain Dick's explanation in a nutshell, though it has something to do with the falseness of what we take as everyday reality and the higher consciousness or vision that some of us can enter into by being hit with pink laser beams of information from other planets. So awakened, we become aware of special states of being that lie beyond the black iron prison of this mundane world.

    Hardcore followers of Dick will enjoy it all immensely, and it is in fact a lively and wildly entertaining journey that can even be very funny at times. As exhilarating as most of it is, however, it is also a sad book, the product of a troubled and suffering mind. Dick did not enjoy robust mental health, a condition not helped by his epic consumption of drugs, and despite the best exculpatory efforts of the editors the results are pretty obviously on display here.

    Take the matter of Dick's paranoia. Underlying the Exegesis is a vision of secret connections everywhere, between the Gospels, Zoroastrianism, particle physics, neurophysiology, and the workings of an oppressive and eternal One World Government (the Roman Empire, as one of his famous phrases has it, never ended).

    Of course no such connections exist. As one footnote suggests, Dick "often appears, well, crazy," and there is no denying this is a mad performance, beside which even the later prophecies of Blake (the closest literary analogy) seem lucid and level-headed.

    Finally, it's important to note that The Exegesis is not essential as a primer for the rest of Dick's work, most of which can be fully appreciated without this manic gloss. As a mental memoir though it has few parallels, and for those up to the challenge it provides fascinating insights into one of twentieth-century literature's strangest and most creative personalities.

    Alex Good edits Canada Notes & Queries.

    Review: The exegesis of Philip K. Dick, edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem

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