Monday, July 31, 2006

Philip K. Dick, The Man Who Japed

Here's a fun mind-bender of a novel!

The year is 2114. In post-nuclear holocaust America, Allen Purcell finds himself in a position of power as he quickly ascends the government ranks to the position of Director of Telemedia, soon to be solely in charge of all that society deems ethical and morally correct. The problem is, one night he sneaks into a public park and "japes" (i.e., vandalizes) a statue of Major Jules Streiter, the founder of Moral Reclamation and symbol of all that this society must hold in reverence. The other problem is, he doesn't remember doing it. Dick's novel follows Purcell as he tries to unravel the circumstances that made him jape the statue, all the while trying to elude the authorities, his business superiors, and a mysterious Doctor Malpardo and his lovely sister, Gretchen.

I'm a relative newcomer to the fiction of Philip K. Dick, but I can certainly understand the cult-like attraction to his work. Although he mostly wrote during the decades spanning the fifties thru the seventies (he died in 1982), his characters and worlds and situations seem amazingly contemporary: paranoic page-turners that offer a glimpse of what our future may (already) hold. I read this book in one sitting!

Check it out.

Friday, July 21, 2006

New Thomas Pynchon Novel Due on December 5th

There was great news on Yahoo! yesterday:

NEW YORK - Thomas Pynchon fans, the long wait is apparently over: His first novel in nearly a decade is coming out in December. But details, as with so much else about the mysterious author of such postmodern classics as "V." and "Gravity's Rainbow," have proved a puzzle.

Since the 1997 release of "Mason & Dixon," a characteristically broad novel about the 18th-century British explorers, new writings by Pynchon have been limited to the occasional review or essay, such as his introduction for a reissue of George Orwell's "1984." He has, of course, made no media appearances or allowed himself to be photographed, not counting a pair of cameos in "The Simpsons," for which he is sketched in one episode with a bag over his head.

This much is known about the new book: It's called "Against the Day" and will be published by Penguin Press. It will run at least 900 pages and the author will not be going on a promotional tour.

"That will not be happening, no," Penguin publicist Tracy Locke told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Like J.D. Salinger (who at one point Pynchon was rumored to be), the 69-year-old Pynchon is the rare author who inspires fascination by not talking to the press. Alleged Pynchon sightings, like so many UFOs, have been common over the years, and his new book has inspired another round of Pynchon-ology on Slate and other Internet sites.

Late last week, the book's description — allegedly written by Pynchon — was posted on It reads in part:

"Spanning the period between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

"With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred."

The description was soon pulled from the site, with Penguin denying any knowledge of its appearance. According to spokesman Sean Sundwall, Penguin requested the posting's removal "due to a late change in scheduling on their part. We expect the description to be reposted to the book's detail page in the next day or two."

Locke declined comment on why the description was taken down, but did reluctantly confirm two details provided by Sundwall, that the book is called "Against the Day" (no title is listed on and that Pynchon indeed wrote the blurb, which warns of more confusion to come.

"Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur," Pynchon writes. "If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction. Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck."

Watch for it on, foax!