Here’s Roberto Bolaño on Philip K. Dick (from New Directions’ forthcoming collection of Bolaño’s newspaper columns, forewords, and other ephemera Between Parentheses)—
Dick was a schizophrenic. Dick was a paranoiac. Dick is one of the ten best American writers of the 20th century, which is saying a lot. Dick was a kind of Kafka steeped in LSD and rage. Dick talks to us, in The Man in the High Castle, in what would become his trademark way, about how mutable reality can be and therefore how mutable history can be. Dick is Thoreau plus the death of the American dream. Dick writes, at times, like a prisoner, because ethically and aesthetically he really is a prisoner. Dick is the one who, in Ubik, comes closest to capturing the human consciousness or fragments of consciousness in the context of their setting; the correspondence between what he tells and the structure of what’s told is more brilliant than similar experiments conducted by Pynchon or DeLillo.
3 thoughts on ““A Kind of Kafka Steeped in LSD and Rage” — Roberto Bolaño on Philip K. Dick”
Another wonderful find!
I wonder if Bolaño thinks Dick was superior to DeLillo and Pynchon because he read him in translation (just like the French loved Poe). I loved PKD when I was a teenager, but his prose is so hastily composed that some of it’s hard to read for me now.
Bolaño is given to hyperbole, of course — and I don’t know if he’s actually making a case for PKD’s prose over Pynchon or DeLillo (although maybe he is). I think he’s arguing that these three post-war writers are somehow all working on variations of the same (American) project, and that Dick’s fractured, schizophrenic structures do the best job of mirroring the paranoiac mindset.
But yeah, PKD wrote some awful sentences.