15 May 2004

John Leonard on PKD

The latest (June) issue of Harper's Magazine arrived in the mail today, and I was thrilled to discover that my favorite living book reviewer, John Leonard, discusses a new edition of a book about Philip K. Dick, I Am Alive and You Are Dead by Emmanuel Carrere. The entire review is very much worth reading, but here's a little taste:
"What [Dick] asks of culture, psychoanalysis, and even religion," Carrere tells us, "was not that they educate him but that they hand over the password that would permit him to escape from the cave wherein we are shown not the real world but only its shadows."

This, alas, describes an entire generational subculture not confined to the sixties, a bunch of addled nomads who agreed with Lily Tomlin that reality was just "a collective hunch," who assumed with R.D. Laing that madness was a proof of grace, and who thus deserved Harlan Ellison's disdain: "Took drugs. Saw God. B[ig] F[ucking] D[eal]." When they were done trashing their own minds, no one picking through the rubble could tell the difference between toxins and nutrients.