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Gripping, but . . . is it really a biography?
on 30 December 2005
The book reads well, and is terribly gripping. I have just one problem with it. How true is any of what it says? The reason for this concern is that there is no critical apparatus, and no information providing sources for various assertions.
For example, some material that is presented as biographical is clearly derived from Dick's fiction. There is a long section which consists of incidents from 'A Scanner Darkly', but told as if they happened to Dick (and not told as if they are actually part of the novel). Now, maybe they really did happen to Dick, and he decided to incorporate them into his novel. Or maybe the author of this book decided for reasons of his own to claim that they happened to Dick. Without discussion of sources, there's no way of telling.
Similarly, there's a lot of material which would appear to me supposition, as it is presented first person from Dick's perspective, telling us what Dick thought and felt at that moment. Now, Dick was very chatty about himself, leaving reams of semi-autobiography behind, but unless the material is properly referenced, I simply cannot tell whether this is fact or supposition.
So, we're left with a putative 'biography' which is written in a novelistic style and contains none of the apparatus that is expected in a good biography, or even any discussion of what is verifiable and what is supposition. Therefore, I cannot help but wonder if the book is possibly simply a novelised version of Dick's life, in which case it is still very interesting, but it isn't a biography.