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The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick Hardcover – November 7, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

“A great and calamitous sequence of arguments with the universe: poignant, terrifying, ludicrous, and brilliant. The Exegesis is the sort of book associated with legends and madmen, but Dick wasn’t a legend and he wasn’t mad. He lived among us, and was a genius.”—Jonathan Lethem

Based on thousands of pages of typed and handwritten notes, journal entries, letters, and story sketches, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is the magnificent and imaginative final work of an author who dedicated his life to questioning the nature of reality and perception, the malleability of space and time, and the relationship between the human and the divine. Edited and introduced by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, this is the definitive presentation of Dick’s brilliant, and epic, work.

In the Exegesis, Dick documents his eight-year attempt to fathom what he called “2-3-74,” a postmodern visionary experience of the entire universe “transformed into information.” In entries that sometimes ran to hundreds of pages, in a freewheeling voice that ranges through personal confession, esoteric scholarship, dream accounts, and fictional fugues, Dick tried to write his way into the heart of a cosmic mystery that tested his powers of imagination and invention to the limit.

This volume, the culmination of many years of transcription and archival research, has been annotated by the editors and by a unique group of writers and scholars chosen to offer a range of views into one of the most improbable and mind-altering manuscripts ever brought to light.

From the Back Cover

One day the contents of my mind moved faster and faster until they ceased being concepts and became percepts. I did not have concepts about the world but perceived it without preconception or even intellectual comprehension. It then resembled the world of UBIK. As if all the contents of one’s mind, if fused, became suddenly alive, a living entity, which took off within one’s head, on its own, saw in its own superior way, without regard to what you had ever learned or seen or known. The principle of emergence, as when nonliving matter becomes living. As if information (thought concepts) when pushed to their limit became metamorphosed into something alive.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 976 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547549253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547549255
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who has read VALIS will know that Dick speaks about a very vague purpose hidden far beyond the words of his stories. It is that 'vague purpose' which is here laid bare, in its fullest and richest brilliance, in the author's most personal and undiluted expression. Do not expect to read an average 'journal', scraps of notes, or even 'science fiction' -- be prepared for a deep and exacting examination of Logos and Mind, Christ and Sophia; the philosophies of Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Iamblichus; the Gnosticism of Thomas and Valentinus, and much more besides that will threaten or inspire you, if you can even begin to understand it.

The physical presentation is commendable, definitely worthy of the price and perhaps even the 29-year gap between PKD's death and the book's publication: the binding is attractive and gold beneath the dust jacket; the pages are light and crisp with 8 glossy photocopied entries from the Exegesis in the center; the type design is pleasantly minimal and unobtrusive. I found the editorial work to be only average; in particular, I was disappointed with several of the footnotes to the text. Although always historically informative, the editors frequently fail to illuminate any deeper meaning, which is what editorial notes traditionally are meant to do. Still, they have done a great service to PKD and the world by bringing together a lucid and presentable collection of the Exegesis material, a task that I'm sure was incredibly complex.

I would not recommend the Exegesis as a starting point for exploring PKD's work. At the very least, you should be familiar with Ubik, as its subject and themes are frequently referred to throughout the Exegesis; and PKD's final trilogy, VALIS.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am compelled to write this based on the extraordinarily misleading review below. If you don't already know what this is, DON'T buy it. Not only is it not a novel, it's not even a story. Come to think of it, it ain't even, strictly speaking, a "book"! So if you're looking for an introduction to Philip Dick, you should really try something else. Most of us start with Blade Runner.

To explain, toward the end of his writing career, Philip Dick had a visionary/religious/mystical experience. Like all such experiences, it was exceptionally difficult to verbalize, rationalize, or explain. If the experience itself didn't drive Dick mad, the task of making sense of it clearly did, at least for a time. Dick entered a period of heightened creativity, struggling to give voice to his religious experience through writing. Dick called this process, and the body of text it produced, his "Exegesis." Traditionally, the word signifies the process of expounding upon and interpreting a work of literature, typically a religious text; here, the object of Dick's literary critique was his own mind.

This book is a relatively narrow selection of pages from that effort. It reads like a philosophical journal, and consists of outlines, correspondence, doodles and rambling essays on science, creativity, ancient history, religion, death, and drugs. This is the raw ore of genius, but it is extremely unrefined. Worse, it has an eerie "tinfoil hat" feel to it; one gets the strong sense that Dick was flirting with mental illness. The casual reader is certain to be alienated, and unnecessarily, since the Exegesis formed the basis for several excellent works of narrative fiction.
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I became interested in Dick's work for philosophical and mystical reasons, after
having some deep experiences with meditation and entheogens. Finding Dick's reflections was a great blessing, as the way he ponders on the ultimate nature of reality is extremely original, unique and unparalled.

The exegesis is a raw, unadulterated experience of philosophical genius. It's not a methodical and organized exposition of a system of thought, although there is one here through and through implicit in Dick's discoveries.

The amount of metaphysical insights contained in the Exegesis is simply amazing. The meaning of creation, the nature of evil, the ultimate goal of the universe - all the great themes are explored here.

It's also important not to approach the Exegesis as a work of pure speculation. It is not. Dick is trying to describe a direct realization of reality, and while his metaphysical flights may seem to be completely ungrounded at times, they always ultimately derive from the transformation of consciousness he underwent, and as such, must be treated as serious descriptive attempts of an ineffable state.

In regards to his cosmology, it essentially states that we are living in a Mind. That the universe we experience is an appearance, illusion, fabrication, simulation, hologram that is emanated and generated by this great Mind at the core of reality. What we see, feel and experience is information which is being endlessly rearranged within this living hypercomputer, what he calls Valis.

There are two dimensions of this classic idea in Dick's exposition. The first is gnostic in essence, and states that the world is some sort of forgery and consequently evil.
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