Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In a Soldier's Stance, I Aimed my Hand at The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach

Before diving into Martian Time Slip I was full of grand illusions that I would be able to analyze it "through the analytical lenses of mental illness, totalitarian governments, and Genocide."  Boy was I wrong. This book is just too damn weird. I think it is definitely one of the most fragmented of Dick's 60s novels, so fragmented that it made me feel schizophrenic at times.

Then it hit me that the book's brilliance lies in the fact that it cannot be analyzed; it lies in the fact that Dick blurs the line between the "schizophrenic" and the sane, by making readers feel mentally deranged, despite the fact that they perceive themselves as mentally fit on most days. PKD shows us that schizophrenia is not black and white, there are levels of it that even the sanest of us can pass in and out of. Anyway, I gave up on the whole analysis approach to this book. It made me long for simple pleasures like Harry Potter.

However, as a former teacher, I was fascinated by PKD's "Public School" on Mars. Here, the students are taught by the requisite "simulacra," robot teachers who are created to be historic figures (see We Can Build You) such as Mark Twain. Do we get a glimpse here of PKD's views on teachers and public education? Protaganist Jack Bohlen feels "repelled by the teaching machines [because] the entire Public School was geared to the task which went contrary to his grain: the school was there not to inform or educate, but to mold, and along severely limited lines. It bent its pupils to it; perpetuation of culture was its goal." This is a very 60s view of education that kind of annoys me in its lack of depth and texture. But, like I said, I'm biased

Anyway, this book was so tripped out it has sent me careening (by necessity) into PKDs Non-Science-Fiction works. So I'll be taking up with a Crap Artist for some more mundane thrills in the coming days.

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