Friday, August 17, 2007

Adam Gopnik makes a good point in his assessment of the work of Philip K. Dick (the best of which is now being issued in a nice volume by the Library of America):
The trouble is that, much as one would like to place Dick above or alongside Pynchon and Vonnegut—or, for that matter, Chesterton or Tolkien—as a poet of the fantastic parable he was a pretty bad writer. Though his imagination is at least the equal of theirs, he had, as he ruefully knew, a hack’s habits, too, and he never really got over them. He has three, at most four, characters, whom he shuffles from hand to hand and novel to novel like a magician with the same mangy rabbits. There is the sexy young stoned girl; the wise or shrewish wife; the ordinary schlub who is his Everyman; and the Mad Engineer who is usually the Designated Explainer. He flogs these types into semi-life by means of Ellery Queen devices, including the depressing one of funny names. Then, there is the narrative falsely propelled by the one-sentence paragraph, the internal monologue that really isn’t, and sometimes both together....
I loved Ubik and Man in the High Castle. But the Blade Runner book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, is overrated.

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