Friday, 17 February 2017

Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

I dreamed I went to prison, sans crime, sans trial, sans anything. In a communal room I leafed quickly through layers of magazines in a large bowl. The last layer was all porn, and the circle sitting around me were all men. Everything calm. No guards around. Was I there as an experiment and I'd be out in a month or so? Who would plant the tomatoes this year? That was a worry.

And this was before I started reading Philip K. Dick, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. 

Back from our travels I read such a glut of New Yorkers and NYRBs, to say nothing of Triple Canopy emails, that even without listening to the news I feel saturated with the geist of the zeit. Philip K. Dick, in overprinted smudgy black print, is about right.

At first I'm impatient with the technicalities, like how someone called Jason Taverner, a TV celebrity with his own show, can slip into a parallel zone where he no longer exists, and all his data has vanished. No one knows him any more. The hit records he has made are now blank. Halfway through the book all these spiky, separate people who exist thanks to remote decisions on the part of some techie chemist with a world view, become fragile. We, reading, become fragile too, unseated, unhappy. We are so obscurely constructed. So hollow. A handmade blue vase is the carrier of most emotion in the novel. How many time zones do you have to cross to feel grief?

The policeman does not cry until Chapter Twenty-four.
He felt something on his face; putting up his hand, he found that his chin was wet. 
By Chapter Twenty-seven, he's in free fall.
His tears became each moment denser and faster and deeper. I'm going the wrong way, he thought ... All I can do now is witness something I can no longer control. I am painted on, like a fresco. Dwelling in only two dimensions, I and Jason Taverner are figures in an old child's drawing. Lost in dust.
Looking through other Philip K. Dick titles, I'm tempted by The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike and Puttering About in a Small Land.

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