Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flow My Oliviero Berni

Howdy. Many of you are clamoring to know my favorite cover for Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. So here you go. It's Oliviero Berni's 1981 Daw cover. Of all of them, U.S. or UK, this one best captures Jason Taverner's Alice in Wonderland type journey, and basic all around cool-ness. Also, it clues us in that the book is a total head-trip. 

Additionally, I just really dig the the depiction of Taverner's threads. This is probably because Berni is an old Italian hipster/artist with an impeccable taste for the finest duds out there. After a lifetime of creating some of the most fantastic cover art for the literati, I'm sure Berni had a special affinity for Taverner, and hence was able to create this, his masterpiece.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Penultimate Truth, Baudrillard and The Transformers (more than meets the eye!)

"Dick engaged the mutant logic of late capitalism and the technological simulacrum before Baudrillard knew a megabyte from a baguette" -- Erik Davis

Nowhere is the above quote more apt than in The Penultimate Truth, which seems to prefigure our current state of political affairs, Baudrillard philosphies such as The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, and the Hasbro action figures The Transformers.

The Penultimate Truth is set on an Earth in which most of the population lives underground ("Tankers") because of a continuous war they are led to believe is taking place above ground. However, this war is not actually taking place. The Tankers are just led to believe this, so that the political elite ("Yance-men") can live above ground on vast parks, called "demenses." They have this land all to themselves without such overpopulation irritations such as traffic, babies crying on the plane, and demand for shows like America's Next Top Model.

The Tankers manufacture robots, who they think are being used in the war effort, but are actually servants for the Yance-men. The situation depicted in The Penultimate Truth has echoes in our current state of affairs, reflected in the perpetual "The War on Terror," among other things.

However, the idea of a fictional war, carried out as images on T.V. screens also found expression in the work of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, most notably in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Here, Baudrillard argued that The Gulf War was not a war in the traditional sense (ground battle), but one conducted from news, maps and images.  Basically, Baudrillard argues that what is "real" these days is just images (or simulacra) of what is real. Basically people think anything they see on T.V. is real. This is certainly true for the Tankers in The Penultimate Truth, who stay underground for 13 years because they believe in some fictional war shown to them on T.V.

On a side note, and as an illustration of the different symbolic levels of PKD's work, my favorite scene in The Penultimate Truth is when the robotic assassin murders Lindblom and then transforms into a television-set so as not to be caught. Here we have an expression of the T.V.'s ability to suck the life out of all that is good, and a precursor to the Transformers action figures I played with back in the '80's. Did PKD ever get credit for that?

Finally, I know many of you have expressed concern about where I will take my PKD jones next. To allay your fears and provide a roadmap, I think we will now move onto Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said


Sunday, February 24, 2008


I prefer reading PKD to the sound of music. Scanner Darkly, for example, was read to side two of Brian Eno's Before and After Science. I tried to read it to the first side as well, but it just wasn't working. I think the second side captures the anguish of the book.

As for other book/music pairings, I read The Penultimate Truth to side two of Kraftwerk's Die Mensch Maschine. Something about these sounds really fits with the image of Joseph Adams flying his Flapple across an empty America on his way to work.

And Dr. Bloodmoney always has Depeche Mode's Songs of Faith and Devotion (the whole LP) as its soundtrack. No record out there better captures a post-apocalyptic sound.

Finally, I thought OMD's Dazzle Ships was a good sound for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? This captures the warm sound of machines that you'll find in the book.

Friday, February 22, 2008

PKD: Five Novels of the 1960s & 70s (Library of America)

This July Library of America will release its second volume of PKD. The volume will include such classics as Martian Time Slip, Dr. Bloodmoney, Now Wait for Last Year, and A Scanner Darkly.

I'm very pleased that Dr. Bloodmoney was included as it is one of my favorite PKD novels. I think this one has a strong sense of lightness, optimism, and humor that sometimes gets overlooked when people think of PKD. You'd never know that the book is such a light-hearted affair (for PKD) given the first Ace cover. One of my favorites. Little Bill floating in the sky. Is this before or after he was in the Owl?

It also contains one of my favorite novel endings, with the vermin device hopelessly chasing after the evolved Bulldogs. I always laugh when I think of this scene. Any idea if this one will ever be made into a movie?

As regards to the other choices, I agree with Mr. Gumm that The Penultimate Truth could (should for me) have been included rather than (or in addition to!) Now Wait For Last Year. I think The Penultimate Truth speaks to so much more that's going on in our day and age than Now Wait For Last Year. I view it as a lens through which we can look at the "War on Terror," or maybe the "War on Terror" is a lens through which we can read Penultimate Truth. I intend to flesh that argument out, as well as others regarding the Penultimate Truth's continuing relevance, in future posts.

However, you can't really go wrong with any of these picks. Especially A Scanner Darkly, which I find continually haunting.

Philip K. Dick, Curtis Mayfield & The Matrix

I've been reading The Penultimate Truth by Philip. K. Dick and I was struck by a number of things.

First of all, the book's influence on the film The Matrix seems profound. Of course, I have read that PKD was an influence on the film before, but surprisingly, not one mention of PKD is found on the Wikipedia article about the film. What's up with that!!? Clearly the Tom Mix is the literary precursor of the Nebuchadnezzar. And the whole plot of the Matrix, with machines living off the generated power of enslaved humans is taken directly from the Penultimate Truth. Except that in the movie, the Yance-men are replaced with robots. But given PKD's M.O. one could argue that the Yance-men are robots. Indeed, Yancy is just a simulacrum through which the above-ground elite feed their lies to the people underground. I'm sure this has been noted before in blogland, and if so, someone point me in the direction.

On a side note, for Penultimate Truth lovers out there, check out Curtis Mayfield's classic "Underground" from his album Roots. Here you'll find PKD's influence on Chicago Soul. I have no proof that Curtis Mayfield ever read PKD, but if I were to create the soundtrack for a Penultimate Truth film, it would open with "Underground."