Ed here: Attacking Philip K. Dick's literary style is becoming a popular sport. Clunky he was in his early ulp days but he became a much better stylist as he worked along. But why let that spoil the fun?
What Philip K Dick needed was a co-author
by Darragh McManus
Despite his brilliant imagination, Philip K Dick's prose was often dreadful. But who are the other literary greats who could have done with a helping hand?
And there was a view out. Limited, no larger in fact than a comb of bees' wax. But still the thick plastic revealed the emptiness beyond, and he went over to fixedly peer. Sol, blinding, filled a portion of the panorama and he reflexively reached up to click the black filter into use. And, as he did so, he perceived his hand. His artificial, metallic, superbly efficient mechanical hand.
The above passage is from an established classic by a revered author, but what an awful piece of writing. Especially its nadir, that syntactical atrocity, "to fixedly peer"."
To fixedly peer? Shudder. How can three short words form such a clunky, unwieldy, barely readable piece of English? More to the point, how did it ever pass Philip K Dick's editors, or his own internal censor?
Rereading The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch recently, I had a rather strange thought: Dick should have written factual, rather than fictional, books. He obviously had a brilliant mind, with one of the most fantastic, and fantastical, imaginations I've ever come across. His ideas seemed to come from some bizarre but divine repository only accessible to this most unique of writers.
Dick took outlandish, almost inconceivable ideas and worked them through, making them real and plausible through the strictures and structures of a formidable intelligence and singular aesthetic. Churning out fascinating, distinctive books at a fierce rate, he was hugely ambitious and original.
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