Jonathan Lethem on Philip K. Dick

Novelist and MacArthur "genius grant" recipient Jonathan Lethem has frequently written and spoken about the influence surrealist science fiction author Philip K. Dick had on Lethem's noir SF works like Amnesia Moon and Gun, With Occasional Music. Indeed, the DVD release of A Scanner Darkly, based on Dick's novel, will feature Lethem's commentary as a bonus feature. The new issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review includes Lethem's imaginations of Phil's strange life shortly after the publication of his first novel. From Lethem's piece, titled "Phil In The Marketplace":

The Lucky Dog Pet Shop is where the writer of Ubik goes to buy ground horsemeat, ostensibly for his dog, actually for himself and his wife to eat. It’s not so bad, horsemeat. In the Pyrenees they smoke it into jerky and serve it with hard cheese and casks of good red wine. What’s bad is the shame. The writer of Ubik has come to suspect that the woman who runs the cash register at the Lucky Dog Pet Shop knows he’s buying the horsemeat for himself, that there is no dog. In a world where the FBI has already visited the writer’s house–they were dapper and polite, fine figures of men, a little older than he’d expected; they reminded him of Hollis, they took him for a drive, he sort of liked them–the woman is one of his foremost looming authority figures. She might turn him in. She might tell his mother.

Yet when the writer of Ubik gets to the cash register he finds not the dreaded woman but instead a substitute clerk, a young man with a small beard like a Beat. When the writer approaches, the substitute clerk greets him in a voice conditioned by cigarettes and bearing traces of an accent. The writer understands without knowing how he understands that the substitute clerk is from France. More than just from France. The substitute clerk is a Marxist literary critic. The writer feels relief. Here is someone who certainly must grasp the eating of horsemeat. The writer’s going to get away with it, at least today.

“You are Philip?”

“Yes.”

“You will write Ubik?”

“I don’t know, I guess so.”

Link (Thanks, Dave Gill!)

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