Friday, June 17, 2011

Books: A Journey Into The Mind Of Philip K. Dick - Revisited

If we believe publishers, bookstores and libraries, biographies are non-fiction. Are they? How could someone know the life of another person, especially when their subject is dead? But anyway, Emmanuel Carrère did a great job.

His Philip K. Dick biography "I  Am Alive And You Are Dead. A Journey Into The Mind Of Philip K. Dick" is a fascinating read. The book, written in French, is also available in English.

The author based his elaborate guessing not just on the known facts about the life of the great Science Fiction author. Carrère also used a lot of analytics, logics, psychology and common sense to construct a fascinating novel about a real life.

His book is like a mathematical derivation. The author used the ideas of Dick`s novels and stories, thus the printed thoughts of Philip K. Dick,  and then deduced how the science fiction genius may have thought in a special situation. The plot of the book is a kind of a second derivation of Dick´s published ideas ensnared with known facts of the science fiction author´s live.

The main issue of Dick´s tales is the question of identity: "Who am I". You may know the movie "Blade Runner", based on Dick´s novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" The film ends with the question: Who is the android-hunter Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford)? Is he really human or is he another android, without knowing it?

Another film, "Total Recall" (based on Dick`s story: "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"), deals with a similar question: Is the memory of the character Doug Quaid (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) real or just implemented like a software.

Both questions, which are very philosophical and maybe theological, seemed to have a great influence on Dick´s thinking and life. It seems the great Science Fiction writer had to fight in his life with similar questions, at least Carrère is suggesting it.

Carrère used his talent to interweave episodes of Dick`s life with analytical deductions. His journey shows - or at least lets us imagine - how Dick dealt with his wives, friends and daughters. How he struggled with his foes, especially the internal revenue service, with publishers, drugs and also with himself. Dick was almost as eccentric as the characters in his books. He used a lot of drugs, experimented with religion and East-Asian philosophies and in his lifetime became more and more bizarre and paranoid.

Carrère displays a lot of humor and narrative talent - both make the book a funny read. Following this journey "into the mind of Philip K. Dick" is a great intellectual pleasure.

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