Palm Tree Garden

Palm Tree Garden

PKD’s palm tree garden, which overlays the occluded black iron prison, is surely a metaphor that has its ‘roots’ in the ecological mimicry of the Californian landscape:

Although they conjure the image of Los Angeles as desert oasis, L.A.’s palm trees owe their iconic status more to Southern California’s turn-of-the-century cultural aspirations and engineering feats than to the region’s natural ecology.

— Adam


Week 4: Going Into Zebra

Week 4: Dick and his polymorphous Zebra!

Week 4 of the reading group sees us becoming-animal (as Deleuze and Guattari would say), traversing the human and metamorphosing into Zebra, which is the “nickname” Dick gives for the “mimicking entity” from which certain sacred information emanates. As Simon Critchley notes, in this section “chains of associated identifications structure the argument of the Exegesis: Zebra equals Christ, and Christ equals God; the mind’s union with Zebra is the union with God, where “you are God” (225). Not a lot, it seems, has been written on what Dick called Zebra, but, if we are to think of Deleuze and Guattari’s becoming-animal as one of those “wild concepts” for which the pair are infamous, and if we are to take their work as instructive, then we might begin to think of Dick’s exploration of Zebra as an instance of becoming-animal that, for Dick, is (or was) very real–more real than even Deleuze and Guattari had had in mind. The relation between Dick and Zebra, however, is always distant, muffled, and unclear; it is, as Regan says of his Can-D experience in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, “remote and vitiated and unconvincing” (Doubleday, 1965, 51). Dick does not simply become Zebra, but he is (and all of us are) said to become the entity’s messenger: a “delegated observer,” as Bruno Latour might say. We are all doing Zebra’s work, performing the animal’s labour, but interminably we remain unaware of this process, this performativity. But Dick ponders whether he might have been exposed to Zebra’s operations, might have caught a rare glimpse of the beast itself:

It is interesting how we inadvertently (unknowingly) carry Zebra’s messages for it, piggyback on our own. It’s as if Zebra says, “As Long as you’re going in that direction, take this along, too.” I suppose a phagocyte doesn’t know anything about its job, either. In seeing these messages flying back and forth, I may have witnessed our primary function within Zebra. It certainly must be mine (225).

As Dick begins to suggest, Zebra may or may not be contiguous, coextensive, with the Universe. The “old universe” could in fact be, he posits, Zebra’s “antagonist,” such that there are two universes (or multiverses), one of which is Zebra, colliding, recombining, the one making itself out of the other .

Dick penned this section on Zebra in January or February of 1977, in the same year that VALIS was published, and only two years following Dick’s fixation on the “incoming signals” that he had then spoken of as emerging from an “observatory like place” and as forming the basis for VALIS‘s plot premise (101). Also around this time, in the 1975 folios of the Exegesis, Dick frequently alludes to a Dr. NK (Dr. Nikolai Aleksandrovic Kozyrev) whose research on time, and particularly the physics of time, clearly forcefully influenced Dick’s professedly Bergsonian views on the physical properties of temporal procession — and these might have played a role in his formulation of Zebra, which is nothing if not a material embodiment of the universe’s temporal quintessence. (See this .pdf copy of Kozyrev’s “Possibility of the Experimental Study of the Property of Time.”) It is while engaging with Dr. NK that Dick begins to become more seriously speculative about the possibility of telepathy, and the nature of the means by which the “messages” of which he speaks–that is, those that he will identify as emanations from Zebra in 1977–could be carried by and through him. As he writes to Claudia Bush in ’75, discussing Ubik‘s reliance of aspects of Dr. NK’s threorisations, and their implications for telepathy (“t-p”):

The leap in time density, the entire experience of radically rolled-back time, would be an automatic experience of any t-p receiver, would have to happen for him to receive. This surely would be more evident if it was not a person normally sensitive to t-p info transfer; someone like me who never normally got info by telepathy would experience a unique and surprising transformation in time and not understand why. Normal telepaths probably would have become accustomed to it (139).

The relation that I am roughly tracing here between Dr. NK’s temporal physics and Zebra, remains somewhat enigmatic. In one schema, it might be proposed that while time modulates its fluxions, its procession, in order for certain transmissions to occur, the source of those transmissions remains a stable, material agent, not affected by time. For Dick, such a stable agent, or actant, seems to be Zebra. In another formulation, however, Zebra may be thought of as nothing more than the material manifestation of time itself. Zebra is stable and fixed only inasmuch as time is also static. Zebra is, after all, as Dick says in 1977, hardly impactful on the material world; a

“weak “vegetable level” field, barely able to arrange matter. (Trigrams Sun and Li.) But its level (capacity to exert force) seems to be growing. To have thresholded recently. I have seen what it can do and have heard its voice.

We too, this week, will hear the voice of Zebra, and we’ll consider whether it is worthy of further work in Dick studies.

It might be worth noting here that Richard Doyle of Penn State University has put together a “distributed scholarship/crowdsourced explication” project on Dick’s Exegesis. The project has been named, significantly, Zebrapedia. From what I gather, the work is just about raring to go and the project is accessible here.

Notes on Our Goings-on

There are a few items of note to report for the group:

  • The first news item to report is that three of the group’s members–Chris Rudge, Adam Hulbert, and Pat Cronin–will be giving talks on Dick’s novels at a forthcoming international conference on novels at the University of Sydney. The conference is entitled The Prosaic Imaginary: Novels and The Everyday, 1750-2000. The conference programme is now online here, and the titles of our talks are as follows:
    • Chris Rudge, Sydney, ‘Doctored Images: Doctors and their Devices in Philip K. Dick’s 1960s novels’
    • Adam Hulbert, UNSW, ‘The Persistent Elsewhere: Radio and the Alternate Worlds of Philip K Dick’
    • Patrick Cronin, Sydney, ‘California Kipple: Everyday Trash in the novels of Philip K. Dick’

The conference will run over 4 days, from July 1-4 2014. We are speaking on 3 July at one of the two 11am parallel sessions. Our abstract submission (.pdf) is here.

  • The second very exciting item of news to report is that, in concert with the PKD Reading Group panel’s appearance at this conference, the panel will be organising a display exhibition of some of Dick’s rare books in collaboration with the University of Sydney’s Fisher Rare Book Library. Recently, myself (Chris) and Pat were able to visit Fisher Library’s uncatalogued Rare Book collection, where we were able to briefly investigate the library’s incredible science fiction and fantasy collection.

The collection truly is unbelievable, having benefited from the massively valuable and extensive bequested collection of Ron Graham, which contains, for instance, almost complete holdings (up to 1979) of the commercially published American, English and Australian science fiction magazines, including such long-running titles titles as Amazing and Astounding, among many other precious artefacts. Almost as extensive are the bequested collections of the late science fiction writer A. Bertram Chandler, who donated his science fiction collection, his own works, and a variety of memorabilia in 1984, and Colin Steele, who has donated his significant private collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and periodicals to the library, which Steele had built up over decades in Sydney and London.

Given the size and status of the collection, the Philip K. Dick Reading Group will display some of the rare volumes of Dick’s novels in concert with the Prosaic Imaginary conference. We are thinking about making a few props: an UBIK spray can, Barbie dolls (Perky ‘Pat’ Christensen from The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch), etc. to sit alongside the books in the display. We’ll be setting up explanatory boards for each work, and have some high quality photos of Dick in the display cabinets too. Images of the library’s haul of Dick’s novels and stories are below (and thanks to Pat Cronin for capturing these images). I will caption these photos with further descriptions of the editions and the contents as soon as I can:


The 1974 White Lion hard cover ofThe Game-Players of Titan (1963), on the right, is a particularly handsome volume.


Notable first editions here include: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (Doubleday, 1965); A Scanner Darkly (Doubleday 1977); UBIK (Doubleday 1969); Deus Irae (Doubleday 1976); The Divine Invasion (Timescape, 1981); and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (Timescape, 1982).


Note the first edition of Eye In The Sky (ACE, 1957).


A first edition of The Man In High Castle (Putnams 1962).


The collection titled PLANET OF DOOM, bottom right, containing Dick’s short story “Retreat From Rigel,” and published by Sydney press Jubilee in 1958, is apparently one of only two of these housed in collected editions in the world (the other is in New Zealand).

dick3 dick4 dick7

  • Last, but not least, Chris (me) will have a chapter appearing in an upcoming volume on Philip K. Dick, which sounds fantastic, starring some of the brightest and most respected Dick and science fiction scholars out there: Laurence Rickels, Richard Doyle, Erik Davis, Roger Luckhurst, Mark Bould, Marcus Boon, and others. Chris’ chapter is about biopolitical subjects and drugs in Dick’s science fiction, and most specifically The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. The volume, titled Future Matters: The Persistence of Philip K. Dick, looks set to be released by Palgrave Macmillan in early 2015.

That’s all the news for now. Stay tuned, and we look forward to seeing new faces at the reading group!

Week 3: Letters to Humans, Correspondences with Cats

Our poster for Week 3 of the Exegesis readings, featuring Dick's "big blue cat."

Our poster for Week 3 of the Exegesis readings, featuring Dick’s “big blue cat.”

As we move into week 3 of the reading group we begin to move beyond the letters that we’ve encountered in the first hundred-odd pages of the Exegesis and onward to some intriguing autobiographical matter. This month’s poster (left) features a cat: one with whom Dick seems to be in a kind of psychological or telepathic dialogue. Dick, as is well known, owned a number of cats throughout his life. These ever-present feline friends are more than simply pets, however; they seem to play a role in determining not only Dick’s affective state and authorial experience, but also his ontological philosophy.  It was precisely when Dick’s “big blue cat” ran away that he felt the need to begin ‘rattling on,’ in a letter, to Claudia Bush. As he wrote to Bush at the end of November in 1974,

Can I rattle on some more at you? Especially since the big cat we got ran away as soon as we let him out? Thank you.

At one point in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Anne Hawthorne and Barney Mayerson discuss the possibility that Palmer Eldritch is a kind of deity.  Anne, who is inclined to theology, describes Eldritch as a “being superior to ourselves,” a “creature fashioned by something higher than itself, as we were; God wasn’t fashioned and He isn’t puzzled.” In the midst of this, Anne then interjects with her “cat joke,” which is perhaps worth quoting in its entirety here:

But–let me tell you my cat joke. It’s very short and simple. A hostess is giving a dinner party and she’s got a lovely five-pound T-bone steak sitting on the sideboard in the kitchen waiting to be cooked while she chats with the guests in the living room–has a few drinks and whatnot. But then she excuses herself to go into the kitchen to cook the steak–and it’s gone. And there’s the family cat, in the corner, sedately washing its face.”

“The cat got the steak,” Barney said.

“Did it? The guests are called in; they argue about it. The steak is gone, all five pounds of it; there sits the cat, looking well-fed and cheerful. ‘Weigh the cat,’ someone says. They’ve had a few drinks; it looks like a good idea. So they go into the bathroom and weigh the cat on the scales. It reads exactly five pounds. They all perceive this reading and one guest says, ‘Okay, that’s it. There’s the steak.’ They’re satisfied that they know what happened, now; they’ve got empirical proof. Then a qualm comes to one of them and he says, puzzled, ‘But where’s the cat?'”

“I heard that joke before,” Barney said. “And anyhow I don’t see its application.”

Anne said, “That joke poses the finest distillation of the problem of ontology ever invented. If you ponder it long enough–”

“Hell,” he said angrily, “it’s five pounds of cat; it’s nonsense–there’s no steak if the scale shows five pounds.”

“Remember the wine and the wafer,” Anne said quietly.

He stared at her. The idea, for a moment, seemed to come through.

“Yes,” she said. “The cat was not the steak. But — the cat might be a manifestation which the steak was taking at that moment.”

Stigmata is a novel preoccupied with the doctrine(s) of transubstantiation and consubstantiation, and this obsession is ‘fleshed out’ in a number of ways and in a range of different settings throughout the book. (The primary conceit or allegory through which the novel illustrates the metaphysical notion is in the process by which users of the drug Can-D (the sacrament) can merge with the Perky Pat dolls–Walt Essex and Perky Pat–to become, body and blood, the living flesh of these static dolls.)

Dust jacket to the first edition (1965, Doubleday) of Dick's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

Dust jacket to the first edition (1965, Doubleday) of Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

In the joke above, it is the figure of the cat (this “five pounds of cat”) that Dick mobilises, through Anne Hawthorne, to point to the way in which the doctrine seems to remain antithetical to the very “empirical proof” that is attested to demonstrate it. In the joke, the figure of the cat takes on a supernatural power; its body disappears as it takes on, integrates, incorporates, the material remains of another animal: the cut of steak from a bovine. (Never mind the fact that the joke seems to presume that the cat also eats the bone.) But (we may wonder), does Dick simply use the figure of the cat here to tell this (Anne’s) joke–to propel Stigmata–or does he, like Jacques Derrida in his essay “The Animal That Therefore I Am,” speak of a “real cat”? As Derrida explains, representations of cats in literature, of course, are manifold:

I must make it clear from the start, the cat I am talking about is a real cat, truly, believe me, a little cat. It isn’t the figure of a cat. It doesn’t silently enter the room as an allegory for all the cats on the earth, the felines that traverse myths and religions, literature and fables. There are so many of them (374).

In the Exegesis, Dick draws a close connection between his real cats, real people, and his literary “guide” who that taught him “to write” (128). After briefly discussing his close relationship with editor Tony  Boucher, Dick tangentially turns his thoughts to the life and death of his cat, Pinky, who, we learn, is a kind of reincarnation of Boucher:

However, Tony is still alive, I discovered last year. My cat had begun to behave in an odd way, keeping watch over me in a quiet fashion, and I saw that he had changed. This was after he ran away and came back, wild and dirty, crapping on the rug in fear; we took him to the vet and the vet calmed him down and healed him. After that Pinky had what I call a spiritual quality, except that he wouldn’t eat meat. He would tremble whenever we tried to feed it to him. For five months he’d been lost, living in the gutter, seeing god knows what; I wish I knew. Anyhow when he was changed—in the twinkling of an eye; that is, while at the vet—he wouldn’t ever do anything cruel. Yet I knew Pinky was afraid, because once I almost shut the refrigerator door on him and he did a 3 cushion bank shot of himself off the walls to escape, and clocked a velocity unusual for a pink sheep thing that usually just sat and gazed ahead. Pinky had trouble breathing because of his heavy fur and what they call hairballs. Tony had asthma terribly and needed it [the air] cold. Pinky would sit by the door to get the cold air from under the crack, and struggle to breathe. I will not write a teaser article here; Pinky died of cancer suddenly; he was three years old; very young for a cat. It was totally unexpected. The vet diagnosed it as something else.

I hadn’t realized Pinky was Tony Boucher, served up by the universe again, until I had this dream about Tony the Tiger—the cereal box character who offers you cocoa puffs” (127).

Here we see a condensation (as Freud might say) of Tony Boucher, Pinky the cat, and Tony the tiger. Tessa (Dick’s fifth wife), Dick notes, had brought Pinky over to him when he had been sick in 1972 and 1973 with pneumonia. (128) Dick felt that Pinky was trying to figure out what part of his body was sick, that the cat was able to perceive his illness, and that, ultimately, that perhaps Pinky died in his place: “I recovered by he did not. That was my friend” (128). Much later in the Exegesis, Dick will see Pinky “in the archetypal role of the humiliated, dying savior” (288): “Pinky was Christ,” Dick realises, “because Pinky was mocked, humiliated, kicked and killed” (301).

All in all, Dick’s relationship with his cats serves as an energising prompt to this month’s discussion of pages 104-208 of the Exegesis; in these pageswe are given more details about Dick’s relationship with his cats than in any other part of the published work. The phenomenon that Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson note in the introduction–the fact that “a cat dies and the room is filled with memorial light”–is not the end of Dick’s “strange experiences” after Pinky’s death. In a perverse reconfiguration of the joke from Stigmata, on the night of Pinky’s death, a hand that is placed on Dick’s shoulder “firmly” to console him, while he mourns in the bathroom, turns out to belong to no one, to be a phantasm. Here the material reality (or at least the phenomenal, sensorial aspects of it) have no origin, what is thought to be material disappears into nothingness. In material experience there is a trace of what has disappeared, but from what dimension does it emerge, “‘But where,’ indeed, is ‘the cat?'”

At Lightspeed (or faster): A Report from The Second Meeting

The second meeting of our group went very well, with an increasing number of attendees. We went overtime (my fault–Chris), and ended up discussing all matter of things about Dick, time and space, “transduction,” and more. A few of the things that we found most striking about the first hundred-or-so pages of the Exegesis included

  • Dick’s fascination with tachyons;
  • his relationship with Bishop Jim Pyke (as of yet only glossed by the group);
  • the paranoid way in which Dick warns Claudia Bush to be “careful” with the information he shares with her about the Dead Sea Scrolls;
  • Dick’s reference to his own amnesia (caused by his car crash of 1964); and
  • Dick’s increasing fascination with megadoses of vitamins.

Dick’s “non-objective” Orthomolecular Visions

Dick’s experimentation with vitamins, and particularly vitamin C, marks the influence (perhaps indirect) of Linus Pauling on his thinking. Pauling is mentioned by Anne, Dick’s third wife, in her biography, The Search for Philip K. Dick. As Anne writes, Dick learned of Pauling through Carl Jung’s introduction to the Tibetan Book of The Dead:

Phil became interested in the I Ching and Linus Pauling’s theory of synchronicity, which Jung describes in his introduction to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Phil began to use the I Ching as an oracle several times a day. Once he asked it if we should sell our old Ford station wagon. The oracle replied, “The wagon is full of devils,” so we sold it and bought that Peugeot, which also turned out to be full of devils.

As it happens, I can’t find the reference to Pauling, or even to synchronicity, in my edition of Jung’s introduction to the Bardo Thodol, and because Jung doesn’t really even write an introduction per se to this book, but rather a ‘Psychological Commentary,’ I’m inclined to think that Anne has this confused and means to speak of Jung’s introduction to The Book of Changes, which contains the I Ching. It is, afterall, in this introduction that Jung writes of synchronicity. Speaking of the I Ching‘s author’s fixation on the hexagram, Jung observes that

This assumption [regarding the importance of the hexagram for practitioners of the I Ching] involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.

Whether or not Dick knew of Pauling through Jung’s remarks on synchronicity from The Book of Changes, it also seems likely that Dick had been influenced by Pauling’s (a Nobel laureate) views on orthomolecular medicine, and probably Pauling’s well-known and highly influential 1970 book Vitamin C and the Common Cold. Pauling’s orthomolecular medical knowledge had always been open to criticism, and it had, at the close of the twentieth century, come under increasingly forceful criticism, and it’s now seemingly unsupported by contemporary research. Dick, as he notes in these letters, uses megadoses of vitamins, which brought on strange experiences and dreams. The dream vision that Dick beheld while experimenting with these high dosages of vitamins are fascinating for readers at all inclined to psychobiography or biographical analysis, including what Deleuze and Guattari call schizo-analysis or (even better) pharmacoanalysis in their second volume of  Capitalism and Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus (below left), or what Avital Ronnel calls “narcoanalysis” in her fantastic Crack Wars. There has yet to be a study of Dick’s drug experimentation that calls on these methods (although I myself am working on something along these lines for a forthcoming book chapter).

It is in this book of 1980 that Deleuze and Guattari begin to think of molecules as having tendencies so that, as Gregg Lambert notes, "A pharmacological investigation reveals real social and political consequences..."

It’s in this book that Deleuze and Guattari start to think of molecules as having “real social and political consequences…” that may be revealed through reading.

Dick’s discussion of his dreaming of numerous independent “non-objective graphics”–artworks resembling Picassos and Miros, for instance–or of his dreaming about books that he would then, in his waking hours, find to actually exist within his house (albeit that these were ordinary, banal books — the most boring volumes he could think of) at once enthral, amuse, and perturb, leaving one to imagine that Dick is all at once engaging, comedic and unspooled. More than this, however, Dick’s experiments reveal a mind whose own teleology (a subject and term of some import in these pages) is not specifically articulated by him, but open to influence, to impression, to suggestion by an other.

Tachyons and Transtemporality


The first edition of Koestler’s 1971 book. It’s unlikely Dick read this, but he’d read an article of Koestler’s in Harper’s.

Notably, it is the tachyon theory that enables Dick to reify his sense of the reality of what might be called ‘transtemporal signals’–messages from the past and future, received by him. Dick had been influenced by journalist and writer Artheur Koestler, whose 1974 article “Order from Disorder” — probably an extension of the ideas that Koestler had originally proposed in his 1972 The Roots of Coincidence — also seem a prolepsis to chaos theory, enunciated by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ 1984 Order Out of Chaos. Having read Koestler’s Harper’s article, Dick felt he had a new way of explaining (at least to Peter Fitting) the feelings that he had recently had, and had articulated, about his own sense of precognition and presentiment about the world. As Dick writes to Fitting in his letter of 1974,

Without the tachyon theory I would lack any kind of scientific formulation, and would have to declare that “God has shown me the sacred tablets in which the future is written” and so forth, as did our forefathers, back on the deserts of Israel under the sky as they tended their sleeping flocks. Koestler also points out that according to modern theory the universe is moving from chaos to form; therefore tachyon bombardment would contain information which expressed a greater degree of Gestalt than similar information about the present; it would, thus at this time continuum, seem more living, more animated by a conscious spirit, to us giving rise to the concept of God. This would definitely give rise to the idea of purpose, in particular purpose lying in the future. Thus we now have a scientific method of considering the notion of teleology, I think, which is why I am writing you now, to express this, my own sense of final causes, as we discussed that day. [Emphasis mine]

Following on from our tachyon discussion, our group became rather astrophysical and cosmological, as we thought along with Dick in his discussion of the possibility of time-travel, and the way in which he began to believe the very “freaks” (his word) who had begun suggesting to him that the world was becoming more Phildickian. In these pages (8-9 from memory), we also found interesting his own suggestion, half-joking, that Ubik, the novel, wrote him (rather than he it), and that he had somehow brought into existence, in the real world, certain characters that he had initially only featured in his novels. One example Dick names is Kathy from Flow My Tears, a simulacrum of whom Dick would later claim to have met in his real life.

We look forward to the next 100 pages of the Exegesis, which we now realise will probably require reading in about three or four sittings. As always, please do contact Chris Rudge for any further information about the group, or if you require any materials or instruction with respect to the monthly readings.

Beginning the Exegesis: Our Second Meeting, 3 April

Our flyer for the second meeting.

The reading group’s second meeting will take place this coming Thursday 3 April 2014. See the poster, at left. In this meeting, we’ve planned to actually begin the substance of the Exegesis, which begins on a page 3. Even so minor a detail as this may seem to possess some significance–both for the numerologists among us and the Dickians alike (as well as those who are both). After all, the number 3 is very significant for Christians: in addition to its many representations in the form of the holy trinity (of Father, Son and Spirit), the number is also said to represent “divine perfection” or “holiness” itself throughout the Bible.

The first pages of this month’s reading begin with a Folder 4, which contains notes on Dick’s Ubik, and then swiftly moves on to a range of letters that Dick wrote through 1974-1976. We well be finishing up on page 103, making this month’s read a relatively manageable 100 pages. For good measure, we will probably want to read up to page 106, where the letter to Claudia Bush of 25 February ends and the letter to her of 26 February begins.

Claudia Bush AKA Dr Claudia Krenz

A little background on Claudia Bush may be in order, since letters between Dick and her so dominate this month’s reading. As Ted Hand noted on his blog Philip K. Dick and Religion in 2011, Frank Bertrand, an independent Dick scholar, notes in a web forum that the

…group of so called “Dear Claudia” letters between Philip K. Dick and Claudia Bush (to become Claudia Krenz Bush, then Dr. Claudia Krenz, who did one of her two MA theses on PKD, of which I’ve written a review, and I happened to meet her in 2001 when I was in Alaska) took place while she was working on her MA thesis on PKD, and they both used the exchange of letters as a means to try out various concepts and ideas on each other, to get critical feedback about various philosophical issues. Do make for very intriguing reading, but we need publication with annotations of both sides of the exchange.

As Bertrand’s note makes clear, Bush–now Dr Claudia Krenz–was a long time researcher of Dick’s thought and work. Klenz’ website also contains more information about her, as well as a link to a project (seemingly since abandoned) that she began developing in 2005: The Philip K. Dick Words Project.

Bertrand’s review of Krenz’ MA thesis on Dick, which is titled “The Splintered Shards: Reality and Illusion in the Novels of Philip K. Dick,” and was submitted to Idaho State University of 1975, offers further detail on Krenz and her research. I’ve not found a copy of Bush/Krenz’s thesis online or on the academic databases, although it could be out there somewhere.


More about Claudia Bush and Dick’s correspondence will no doubt be discussed during the meeting. We look forward to seeing you there.

Please email Chris if you need to obtain copies of this month’s reading, or if you have any questions about the reading group.

News from the First Meeting

The group’s first meeting of 11 March was a terrific success. In addition to the great discussion of all things PKD, a lot of organising was done, and we now can present our reading schedule for 2014.



3 April 2014 The Exegesis, pages 3-103
1 May The Exegesis, pages 104-208
5 June The Exegesis, pages 211-311
3 July The Exegesis, pages 312-444
7 August The Exegesis, pages 451-551
4 September The Exegesis, pages 552-670
2 October The Exegesis, pages 673-773
6 November The Exegesis, pages 774-900
4 December Exegesis wrap-up; Reading TBC.

Meetings will take place on the first Thursday of each month, from 5:30pm-7pm. The room that we have access to through the University of NSW is fantastic; there is a web-connected iMac and a data projector for our use, and the room itself is very modern, and a great size.

Talking ‘Things’

The first edition of Time Out of Joint: a great 'thing' in itself (to paraphrase Kant).

The first edition of Time Out of Joint: a great ‘thing’ in itself (to paraphrase Kant).

Three members of the group are thinking of submitting a panel abstract at the end of this month for a conference that will take place at the University of Sydney in July (July 1-4) 2014 called The Prosaic Imaginary: Novels and the Everyday 1750-2000. More details about this conference are available at its Facebook page. For our panel, we would like to focus on the various ‘things’ in Dick’s novels, including such devices as the (scarcely visible) radios in Time Out of Joint, and the various psychiatric devices, including Dr. Smile, in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and other ‘things’ of this nature. In this spirit, we also were interested to discuss Lorraine Daston’s work (Things That Talk, Biographies of Scientific Objects), and Mike Jay’s work, including his 2011 book The Influencing Machine.

Navigating the Exegesis

One of the interesting observations that emerged in Meeting 1 was the possibility of navigating the Exegesis through identifying the grey marks that appear on the book’s fore-edge. These grey marks appear because of the ‘fish’ design that appears on the pages that mark the beginning of each of the work’s ‘Parts.’ The Exegesis is composed of four Parts, roughly of about 200 pages in length each. By putting the book on its side, readers can quickly find each of these four Parts. This is helpful, as the book itself does not offer page numbers for these Parts in the contents page. The work itself is somewhat difficult to navigate, as it is ordered by ‘Folders’ that are numbered, but they are sometimes out of numerical order as well as chronological order. We will write more on this in future posts.

The group decided it would be too laborious and possibly less fruitful to deal with a full Part each meeting, so we have divided the reading up into 100 page blocks. If the group proceeds in accordance with the above schedule, we shall have read the Exegesis — quite thoroughly — by December 2014.

Facebook: Everyone’s favourite simulacrum

Speaking of Facebook, the Philip K. Dick Reader’s Group Facebook Page is now up. Get liking! As always, please get in touch if you would like to join the group’s email list.

The Reading Group’s First Meeting: This Tuesday 11 March


The Flyer for our First Meeting. (Illustration of Dick courtesy of the brilliant NC Mallory: see

The group will meet for the first time this Tuesday 11 March at the University of New South Wales, in Room 310 at The Webster Building. This first meeting will essentially be an opportunity for those attending (there’s likely only to be three of us!) to organise the forthcoming meetings for the coming months of the first half of 2014. As a nominal reading, we’ve decided to review the Introduction to Dick’s The Exegesis, which was published in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem. Jackson herself wrote a great PhD dissertation on Dick, and Lethem is an established — and increasingly valorised — fiction novelist in his own right. (Actor Ed Norton has recently confirmed that he will commence production of a film version of Lethem’s 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn). The Exegesis is also annotated throughout by a great bunch: Simon Critchley, Steve Erickson, David Gill (San Francisco State University), N. Katherine Hayles (Duke University), Jeffrey J. Kripal, Gabriel McKee, Richard Doyle (Penn State University), and the editors.

As a collectible artefact, The Exegesis is one of the handsomest books on the market. Harcourt and their book designer have done a great job. It’s bound in a splendid gold cover (beneath the dust jacket), and the design of the book is fantastic, typeset in Warnock Pro and filled with facsimiles of Dick’s original illustrations. These doodles constitute the diagramattic and graphemic representations — the ideas and afterimages — of Dick’s  ‘2-3-74’ experience: that is, the metaphysical event –the inspirations — that initially compelled him to compose the work. While it’s a serious condensation of the storied stash of written documents that constitute Dick’s full-length Exegesis (these apparently run to some 9,000 pages), the published edition, at around 900 pages, is still a lengthy volume.

All going well, the group should have a good and productive time this week, and set up a positive, organised agenda for the coming months. Movements are underway; Dickheads are getting their kipple straightened out; we’re heading for a Land-O-Smiles. So: Watch this space!

Any enquiries about the reading group, including more information about obtaining the readings if readers do not possess them already, can be directed to Chris Rudge.