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Understanding Philip K. Dick (Understanding Contemporary American Literature) [Hardcover]

Eric Carl Link , Matthew J. Bruccoli
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Jan 2010 Understanding Contemporary American Literature
This is a guidebook into the fantastic world of a science fiction legend. Author of more than forty novels and myriad short stories over a three-decade literary career, Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) single-handedly reshaped twentieth-century science fiction. His influence has only increased since his death with the release of numerous feature films based on his work, including "Blade Runner", "Total Recall", "Minority Report", and "Next". Viewing his subject as foremost a novelist of ideas, Eric Carl Link surveys Dick's own tragicomic biography, his craft and career, and the recurrent ideas and themes that give shape and significance to his fiction. Link addresses Dick's efforts to break into the mainstream in the 1950s, his return to science fiction in the 1960s, and his move toward more theologically oriented work in his final two decades. Link finds in Dick's writing an intellectual curiosity that transformed his bizarre pulp extravaganzas into philosophically challenging explorations of reality.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press (1 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570038554
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570038556
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,852,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Eric Carl Link is a professor of American literature at the University of Memphis, the author of The Vast and Terrible Drama: American Literary Naturalism in the Late Nineteenth Century, and the coauthor of Neutral Ground: New Traditionalism and the American Romance Controversy.

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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction 20 July 2010
If you have read all that Dick has written--and I am dangerously near that--and most of the critical contributions on this writer who is being rapidly canonized by the academia, then you do not need this book. But if you are someone who has read one of two novels by Dick and wants to know more about him, or a student who is planning a thesis on Dick and needs to get his/her bearings, this is the book you HAVE TO read! It's a very good introduction to Dick's fiction and nonfiction, which discusses his most important themes and ideas, quotes most of the relevant critical interpretations, provides those basic info that any prospective interpreter may need; it is well-organized, clearly written, well documented. A goldmine especially for AmLit students. It does have an index, and a rich bibliography. What can you ask for more?
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the Criticism of Dr. Eric C. Link 15 Aug 2010
By reginald martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Let me begin by pointing out that this writer, Dr. Eric C. Link, is a friend, but that is not why my review will be positive. As James Boswell pointed out when he began to review Samuel Johnson's work: "If friends did not review each others' books, there would be precious few reviews." That being said, my review will be positive because Link's book is so good and important to the study of the work of Philip K. Dick, specifically, and to the study of Science Fiction as great literature, in general.

Helpfully divided into five fore-grounding sections that progress pyramidally in their reasoning, "Understanding Philip K. Dick," "Philip K. Dick: Novelist of Ideas," "The Craft and Career of Philip K. Dick," "The Themes of Philip K. Dick," and "Reading Philip K. Dick: Notes on Six Novels," Understanding Philip K. Dick (Columbia: USCP, 2010) moves from a detailed examination of essential tropes and themes to a detailed and selective novel by novel approach, showing the recurring themes in such great works as The Man in the High Castle (1962), Martian Time Slip (1962), Now Wait for Last Year (1966), The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1964), Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1970), and VALIS (1978). Link's discussion and biographical examination of the VALIS text and that period in Dick's life, alone, is worth reading the entire book. Indeed, I read Link's book backwards as I often do critical books, looking for proofs of the earlier stated assessments in the conclusions. Link backs up every assertion in the most scholarly of manners and fills a long existent gap in Dick scholarship with an extensive Selected Bibliography with nine major and minor categories listed.

One quoted section from Link's book, I think, really sums up Link's Biographical/Extratextual/Subtextual critical approach to Dick's works: "In his work Dick responded to the climate of his times. In the 1950's, when Dick turned his talent to serious writing, one can find clear reflections of the post-World War II era of cold war politics, atomic scares, bomb shelters, and McCarthyism. In the 1960s, Dick's work is heavily influenced by the Berkeley counterculture scene. Many of Dick's best works from the 1960s directly engage the issue of drugs and drug culture, sometimes as metaphor and symbol, other times as tangible and tragic. One also finds Dick working out implications of the civil rights movement, the rise of the Black Panther Party, the shadowy activities of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the host of other social issues that the youth counterculture and the Beats gravitated to in their protests and writings ." (9). I would have nominated Link's book for this year's Hugo award in science fiction criticism, but as their website makes clear, a critic's books can only be secretly suggested and selected by those who notice it and who work for the World Science Fiction Society Board. So, respectfully, to the WSFS Board, here is the best book of Dick criticism published in 2010. Please consider it for one of your 2011 awards.

As I was the original African-American Dick fan, I was especially pleased to see how Link examined Dick's views on ethnicity and the future (sometimes aggrandized by Dick into "species-ism"), especially in Chapter 4's "Themes of Philip K. Dick." I would recommend this book to beginning readers of Dick who want more critical windows through which to appreciate Dick's works, but also to Dick-o-philes who want new, deeper examinations of Dick's themes upon which they have already thoughtfully reflected. In Understanding Philip K. Dick, Dr. Eric C. Link has done all Dick fans a favor, and I think his brilliant but easily accessible critique of Dick's works will also begin to build a new fan base among readers who otherwise may have known Dick only via Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1966).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction 3 Oct 2011
By Umberto Rossi - Published on Amazon.com
With Dick's canonization process well under way, the secondary bibliography on this once underrated and neglected writer is quickly growing. Having written a book on Dick, I reckon I am qualified to say that some of the essays that have been recently published on PKD and his fiction are not very useful, not even good enough. But this is something else. It is a painstakingly written introduction to Dick, written by a professional scholar who evidently wanted to provide college students with a book that may explain who was Phil Dick, what he has written, what is his importance in 20th-Century US literature. Part of what Link has put in this book is not new for those, like me, who have been working on Dick for years; but these are precious concepts, data and indications for someone who has just discovered Dick and wants to know more. But here one may find also original insights and interpretations that I felt I had to quote in my monograph: this book also has relevant added value for PKD scholars. All in all, a welcome contribution to the field of PKD scholarship, and the book I'd recommend to any undergraduate or postgraduate student who wants to write a paper or a dissertation on PKD.
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