“Something is wrong. I don’t mean with you or me or with any person. I mean in general." --Ragle Gumm

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Recognition and Dysrecognition in the World of PKD

“Many literary critics and scholars in Western and Eastern Europe, Japan, and throughout North America agree that Philip K. Dick will be remembered in years to come as one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century.” –Philip K. Dick: The Official Site

So here it is. Finally. The world-wide accolades he deserves and would have relished were he still with us. The Philip K. Dick Award, new editions of his novels with abstract covers and higher prices, the publication of novels not published during his lifetime, the publication of his Exegesis, translations of his novels into twenty-five languages, two conferences for scholars and fans  in 2012. . . what more could there be? 

And yet. Once we open a novel and start reading, all of this disappears. We are not meant to hold on to the consensus reality as we read. With every story, Philip K. Dick wants to crack open our minds and startle us into dropping the rigid constructs of thought we either don’t know how to question or are afraid to. Sure, money and fame—good for him, good for us—but they are not the reality he seeks to perpetuate once we have opened a novel and projected our minds into it. Pride and appreciation don’t work here.

In a letter he wrote in May, 1981, Philip K. Dick called the process he wanted to initiate in his readers “ the shock of dysrecognition,” the undoing of things which prevent the mind from creating its own reality, independent of the insanity of human consciousness. We are not meant to come out of his novels the same as when we went in. Every mind is its own house with doors, walls, windows, furniture, pictures, and anything else we might pick up shopping through life; and every mind wants to keep them placed just the way they are. But when we take on PKD, we can expect rearrangements to take place: furniture moved, windows broken, doors off their hinges, walls cracked. And then, if we are paying attention and not scrambling to put everything back the way it was, and if we are lucky, we might get a glimpse of PKD smiling up at us from a corner on the floor where the lines were never meant to meet.   

 “Dysrecognition” is his highest praise.