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I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick Paperback – May 12, 2005
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“Strange, fascinating man, and this a strange, fascinating book.” ―The San Diego Union Tribune
“Emmanuel Carrère's I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick is remarkable--a depth charge, a CAT scan, and an exorcism. Carrère, whose own eerie novels include The Adversary, proves that it's still possible for the French to write like Voltaire rather than Derrida. Informed, affectionate, sardonic, he is also crystal clear.” ―John Leonard, Harper's
“Consistently fascinating and brilliantly written . . . Carrère combines fact and fiction to form a new sort of genre, blending literary criticism and cultural history with a novelist's earnest speculation.” ―Los Angeles Times Book Review
“The story of a remarkable life marked by great burst of creativity and equally frequent bouts of mental turmoil . . . Carrère wisely eschews the ‘and then he wrote' approach to literary biography . . . He neither overstates Dick's gifts nor belittles his more outlandish hypotheses about the underlying meaning of reality . . . Captures . . . [Dick's] sense of humor , his intellectual curiosity, his very human vulnerability . . . Compelling.” ―Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle
“Startling . . . Carrère gets so far inside the head of the deeply troubled author . . . the resulting text is remarkably vivid, intimate, often haunting.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
“What Dick thinks and feels as a man and writer is richly developed in this riveting biography. Mr. Carrère's book is mesmerizing. Seldom have I read a biographer who drew me so deeply into his subject's world.” ―Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun
“Every whorl of Dick's mind, every delusion, every leap through the looking glass, is chronicled. The effect is powerful.” ―James Parker, The Boston Globe
“[A] painful and unconventional biography [that] portrays Dick as a Cold War Don Quixote, flailing at the totalitarianism he suspected was taking over 1950s-60s America. Aimed at hardcore Dick fans, it's a powerful treatment of a difficult subject.” ―Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Upon beginning the book, I found myself almost immediately yanked into Dick's world and life, and, although I have another 70 or so pages to complete, I feel this book surpasses Sutin's fine biography in that it does not merely bring us the external "objective" facts of Dick's life, but vividly animates that life, putting us INTO the "koinos kosmos" of Dick: we come to experience ourselves the sweat and fear and lust and neediness and egocentricity and eccentricity and petulance and brilliance and charm and childishness and addiction and obsessions of the man, among many other of the panoply of traits which made Dick the human being and writer he was.
While as a younger "fan" I might have been threatened to see my literary hero depicted so frankly--which of course cannot leave Dick looking saintly, by any means--as a more mature person I appreciate Carrere's respect for his subject and for his readers, as he does not idealize or elide Dick's less savory traits, but incorporates them into a complex and empathetic portrait which has the feeling of truth. After all, writers are notoriously tormented or maladjusted human beings, and the writer who could have produced Dick's body of work cannot be assumed to have been merely a gently avuncular eccentric, but was a complicated man, driven by harsh anxieties and compulsions as much as by brilliance and creative fecundity.Read more ›
to learn more about Philip K. Dick, but had been turned off by other articles and
books that had drained the life from Dick's story with overly dry and pedantic prose.
In contrast, Carrere offers psychological insight and philosophical speculation
that can only be described as "Phildickian." As one who had read all of
Dick's better-known works, Carrere seems to have reanimated Dick's spirit in this
compelling, partially novelized tale. What the reader sacrifices in footnotes and
verifiable fact is more than made up for by the sheer human interest of the story.
Carrère gives a reasonably full account of Dick's life, while assuming that his readers are those who have already read most or all of Dick's major works, and the earlier biographies. (Cautionary note: this means that, if you haven't read Dick's major works, you should beware of spoilers.) His goal is working out an understanding of his subject's mind from this wealth of material. To what extent did the traumas of Dick's childhood (the death of his twin sister when they were a few weeks old, his parents' divorce, his mother's own obsessions) contribute to his own instability and emotional problems, and to what extent were they merely the background against which his own personality oddities played out? How did his problems and his drug use affect his fiction? How much was the drug use the cause of his later problems, and how much was it an unguided attempt at self-medication? Carrère seems both clear-eyed and sympathetic in his descriptions of not only Philip Dick, but also his parents, wives, and friends. This is a highly readable and interesting book about a fascinating writer.
My biggest complaint, though, is that the book contains absolutely no documentation whatsoever. No endnotes, nothing. Where does Carrere get his information? There's no way of knowing! I couldn't tell what was documented fact and what was the author's speculation.
I could have passed on this book. This is not the definitive biography of Philip K. Dick.