Saturday, June 23, 2007

Library of America* acknowledges Phillip K. Dick existed!

This morning Jen said, "Hey, they have a science fiction book in the New York Times Book Review today!"

I said, "Oh, I bet it's either Ian McDonald's Brasyl or Charles Stross' Glasshouse. Those are the two big scifi releases everyone's talking about."

Nope. It was a review of the Library of America* anthology of PKD stories from the '60s. It was a good review, I'm not complaining about that. And PKD is one of my favorite authors of all time, scifi or not.

But first of all, when they review a scifi writer it would have to be somebody who's safely dead & buried. Yes, they review contemporary scifi, but rarely.

Worse, three of the stories that are in the LOA* anthology ("The Four Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch," "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and "Ubik") were already in print in an anthology. I know, because I have it. (Actually, it's not mine. Sorry Royal!). The other, "The Man in the High Castle," is also in print.

What the NYTBR is acknowledging is that the LOA* opened the pearly gates to literary recognition for the speed-addled old ghost of Phil. "He's ours now! You genre punks get your hands off."

Notice Jonathan Lethem compiled it**. I am about to read an early Lethem book I bought at our favorite GP bookstore, Word, the other day. But from what I've seen, Lethem is a scifi writer the way that Basquiat was a graffiti artist. He toyed with the style until he was able to get into the Real Artists' Club, and we won't even get a postcard from now on.

At least Lethem got it while he's still alive. PKD never saw the outside of a pulp cover before he died (let alone the bazillions of dollars brought in by all the movies loosely derived from his work).

* Correction: Originally, I wrote Modern Library. Corrected by Anonymous.
** Correction: Originally, I said he wrote the introduction, but Andrew Wheeler pointed out the LOA works don't have intros. Thanks Andrew!


Anonymous said...

A point of clarification: "Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s" is published by The Library of America, not the Modern Library

Andrew Wheeler said...

Another point:

I would be very surprised if Lethem did an introduction, though he is credited as the compiler of the book. Library of America editions never, in my experience, have introductions, or more than the most minimal critical apparatus (to keep that criticism from becoming dated, since the books are designed to last for generations).

Jim Stewart said...

Anonymous - whoops! You're right, it's Library of America, not Modern Library.

Andrew - you're right, too. I see now that I misread what Itzkoff wrote; Lethem wrote an essay on PKD, but it wasn't the introduction.

I'm going to have to stop writing these posts at 3AM!