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Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick Paperback – August 30, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Divine Invasions" is the first full-scale biography of Philip K. Dick, a brilliant writer who, working inside the science fiction field, created some of the most powerful and lasting visionary fiction of this century. This biography chronicles the story of a man whose life was truly as interesting as his own enduring work.

""Divine Invasions" is a perceptive introduction to Philip K. Dick's amazing talent. In Europe and Japan, Dick is regarded as a major American writer, without regard to genre. This new biography takes a large step toward earning Dick that same respect in his native country." -San Francisco Chronicle

"A century from now, two or three of Dick's novels are likely to be among the books by which people will understand this era and its fascination with subliminal manipulation of consciousness and the general origins and limits of consciousness... Lawrence Sutin's biography is a highly informative and fascinating attempt at establishing the fundamentals of Dick's life and work... Extremely useful... is a twenty-page chronological guide to the novels... This biography makes you like Philip K. Dick and makes you want to read his books." -Hungry Mind Review

"It is difficult to praise this book highly enough... Philip K. Dick is finally being accorded the same depth and detail as subjects far less deserving. As scholarship and research, Sutin's efforts are impeccable. As literature, the book is at once absorbing, intelligent and eminently readable... A must-read book for anyone interested in the psychology and art of this fascinating figure." -Trajectories

"An incisive, conscientious biography. Bravo." -Art Spiegelman

"The only biography I've ever read that's as exciting as a spy novel... Phil Dick's life was as weird and mysterious as any of his science fiction books." -Robert Anton Wilson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Lawrence Sutin is an award-winning memoirist and biographer. His books include JACK AND ROCHELLE: A HOLOCAUST STORY OF LOVE AND RESISTANCE, A POSTCARD MEMOIR, and DO WHAT THOU WILT: A LIFE OF ALEISTER CROWLEY. Sutin teaches in the MFA program at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786716231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786716234
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is Lawrence Sutin's best book (well, of the three that I've read). It's also the best book on Dick I've found, and it's about as engrossing as some of Dick's better novels. There's a lot of stuff in here, but I wolfed it down pretty quickly.
The various troubled relationships, paranoid experiences (and attitudes), drug experimentation, and transcendental experiences are discussed here in some detail. We get lots of stories from Dick's ex-wives and such discussing his writing habits and nervous behavior.
I found particularly helpful the bibliography (with plot summaries) at the end of the book. It's depressing how much of Dick's work is still out of print.
A great book on a great American writer. Anyone who wants to go further might look at IN SEARCH OF VALIS, also by Sutin.
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Format: Paperback
I have mixed feelings about this book. Sutin gives the impression that he interviewed me extensively, but he actually used quotes from other interviews and never met me, although I did briefly answer three of his questions by letter. Furthermore, I must disagree with most of his conclusions. Since I spent ten years with Phil, and those were the last ten years of his life, I believe that I know more about him than a biographer who never met him and simply read about him.
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By A Customer on December 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Sutin's comprehensive literary biography of PKD is a godsend, because it clears up so many loose ends of his life and work. The background about his lost twin, who died as a baby (he was buried with her in Colorado), and his father's abandonment of the family, does much to clarify a lifetime of driven insecurity. Dick's failure to break out of the genre category with his "quality novels" (most of them published after his death in small editions) in the late 1950s led to a revolution within science fiction itself, where he had to continue publishing. In fact Dick was a fantasist at heart, and ahead of his time in working through genre categories. Unfortunately the pay and prestige for even brilliant genre writers were so limited that his spirit was finally broken. Moreover, he made several bad decisions about relationships that gradually led him into his own strange world of cosmic paranoia. When acclaim and success finally came his way, his life was over. He died at age 53 in March 1982. Sutin adds a very helpful "Chronological survey and guide" that establishes the actual order of the books he wrote, their publication history (which has altered a bit since 1989, when the book was publshed), and summary and evaluation of each book. Strongly recommended for anyone seriously interested in this author's work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
DIVINE INVASIONS is a herculean attempt to put the life of Phil K. Dick between the covers of one book. That Dick wrote too many words is the problem for any biographer. Which of the many millions of words to select from revealed the truth and which disguised it? The additional problem is that Dick described himself not as a novelist but as a "fictionalizing philosopher."
In his search to reveal his own reality Dick describes one reality that surrounded him everyday, another reality that framed the everyday reality, and also his personal mental reality enclosing the everything, existing only in his mind that could not be shared. Paul Williams' Forward gives Sutin the ultimate testimonial, "this is the man I knew." Yet Sutin, like Paul Williams, was "too close to the subject matter," and had difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff. Whether his story is about Dick the man or about the plethora of fictive characters in Dick's works becomes clouded. What becomes clear is that Sutin did pass judgment on Dick in referring to him as "a hidden treasure of American literature." I doubt that Dick's many readers, after all, those who the tortured writer wanted to reach, would agree with this assessment.
The portrait of Sutin painted was not pretty. The author pulled no punches is showing Dick as a wife beater, adulterer, cradle robber, lech, suicide, hypochondriac, child abandoner, doper, tax evader, malingerer, fabricator and snitch. What became clear was that when a relationship no longer fueled the fires of his personal solipsistic hell, Phil moved on. But a nagging question remains: did the reader learn more about Phil K. Dick than he/she wanted to know?
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Format: Paperback
Sutin's sometimes sarcastic style might surprise the reader at first, but this is a very insightful look at the life and work of Philip K. Dick - it's also the most substantial book of its kind we have yet. Sutin does a good job of inserting his comments about the works while sharing with us their genesis at the same time; the analysis aspect of `Divine Invasions' is fairly limited, but since it's not a scholarly book, it doesn't disappoint. It reads somewhat like PKD's own novels and short stories, with Dick himself as the central character. The extracts from the Exegesis show PKD at his speculative best and made me want to read more. One more note: in the last section, Sutin offers a `guide' in which he rates PKD's books on a 1-10 internal scale, also providing capsule reviews of the works he didn't write about in the main narrative; it's sure to provoke arguments, as he thought it would. Serious PKD readers should definitely read this.
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