PKD Gets Posterized
Deracination as Feature, Not a Bug
I’m in the middle of PKD’s great RADIO FREE ALBEMUTH, which I have the uneasy feeling I’ve read before even tho I know for certain I’ve not. This is because of R Crumb’s famous comic on the matter, which uses that medium’s intensity to communicate the core of Dick’s story in maybe forty easy frames.
Nothing I’ve read over the past few years has made me feel as uneasy, paranoid and awkward… except for maybe my Twitter feed, but that has at least the illusion of a kind of social gamescape. PKD’s book feels like a schizoid break from reality written down. Of course it deals with an all-too-pertinent political topic: a global oligarchy mono-system masquerading as competition (Red / Blue, Communist / Capitalist, false binary).
I haven’t finished the book so am not going to go on too long here about it just yet. What I did find today is that there’s a film version of this classic. I didn’t know this existed, probably food good reason given the reviews, although I’m tempted to seek it out and given it a look to see if and how they botched this story about a man in the late 60s losing his mind as he deals with rising American totalitarianism. As I like to say, quoting the great Ulver tune: “Nothing has changed since the late sixties.”
This is the mawkish, horrifying poster for this book:
This markets something so removed from what the book is actually about, it’s laughable. Everything about this poster horrifies, from the palette to the airbrushing, the fonts, all of it. This book is about a guy who leaves his bummer job as a clerk in a Berkeley record store and moves to Orange County to be a record executive, hears something like the voice of God (VALIS), and gets caught up with spies on both sides of a potentially fake political divide. It’s based largely on Dick’s own psychological breakdown. This poster conveys exactly zero of any of that, which is actually an accomplishment I realize. “Deracination” (airbrushing and airbrushed anti-culture) is a feature, not a bug, in the wiped-out, sucked dry marketplace we call the West.
Compare the above to the subdued elegance of the first edition tome. There’s mystery here, poetic symmetry. You wonder perhaps what it’s about. It’s open, not too busy. Elegant. You can almost smell the paper.
Anyway, I’ll still probably watch the movie. Maybe I’ll even love it. The poster, tho… Oof.