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Puttering About in a Small Land Hardcover – December 8, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Published posthumously, this work is radically different from the famous science fiction author’s past successes. It is a mood piece, a somber study of two young couples. A curious, oddly compelling book. Turning each page the reader feels an odd suspense and a reluctance to abandon these four unpredictable but somehow endearing people.”
--Booklist on Puttering About in a Small Land

“Dick was…one of the genuine visionaries that North American fiction has produced in this century.”
--L.A. Weekly

About the Author

Philip K. Dick has had many movies based on his stories, including the classic, Blade Runner. Several more are in various stages of development.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765316943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765316943
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,017,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Kleist on November 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have a soft spot for this bleakly realistic novel about California life in the 1950's. The main characters are little people, anti-heroes, average Joes, but Dick's psychological insights are superb and singular. I remember one character's description of being popular in elementary school for two days because of making ears from breadcrusts and causing everyone to laugh; and a brilliantly believable internal monologue about getting caught in the act of adultery. Dick's evocations are haunting. He truly was capable of finding the unique and the universal in the quotidian realities of modern life, even when disguised by a wacky SF alternative-realm framework (not here, though). PUTTERING is straight slice-of-life.
I wish someone would make this one into a movie. It's bittersweet, evocative--filled with character like an aged burgundy. Read it.
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Format: Paperback
Eight of the mainstream novels PKD wrote in the fifties have now been published. Everyone agrees that CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST is the best; after that, opinions vary quite widely. I'd put this in the top three, but, really, you have to try them and see. This one's an often funny tale of adultery, with terrific characterizations, including one of the most positively portrayed females in all of PKD's work. Like a lot of Dick novels, it explores why we sometimes knowingly and willfully act to bring about our own downfall.
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Format: Paperback
Puttering About in a Small LandCritical opinion informs us that in his 1950's and early 1960's non-sf work, Philip K. Dick dealt with suburban life on the west coast. How many besides me automatically assume that any novel from that time, set in the suburbs, must necessarily deal with adultery? Show of hands, please - yeah, most of us. Well, "Puttering About" certainly deals with cheating spouses, to a greater extent than maybe anything else PKD ever wrote. On the other hand, this author never treated classic stories in a classic fashion. Let's see how he handled a story about musical beds.

Here's the setup - Virginia and Roger Lindahl, a squabbling Los Angeles couple who own a television shop, enroll their young son Gregg in an Ojai boarding school. They agree to share weekend driving chores with another set of parents, Chic and Liz Bonner. Ojai is about 70-80 miles from Los Angeles, and the husband of one couple finds himself on a long road trip with the wife of the other couple. Hijincks ensue.

As I hinted above, this is pretty typical stuff for a certain kind of late-50s American storytelling. On the other hand, "Puttering About" does not restrict itself to the story of the affair. You get a wide spectrum of postwar American experience, including some flashbacks to the Lindahls' lives before and after their marriage. They have lived through some big changes, moving with America from a more rural lifestyle to a more urban one, and moving with America through World War II and the postwar economic boom.
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Format: Paperback
The title of this realist novel, written in 1957 but not published until 1985, refers to the "small land" of Roger Lindahl's TV repair shop. His wife, Virginia is ambitious, and ends up taking control of the business and expanding it into a large appliance store; but she, as much as Roger or any of the other characters, exists in the small land of her own mind. California, the land of opportunity which had lured the Lindahls from the East coast, is small in its own way: the deadening conventionality of 1950s manners and morals contract the range of human happiness there as elsewhere. Into this wasteland a fertilizing influence appears in the person of Liz Bonner. Roger finds her refreshingly uninhibited and sensual. In its concentration on the triangle of Roger, Liz, and Virginia, Dick fully develops the psychological dynamics of marital and extramarital relations. His sometimes fantastic descriptions of the wasteland of the "small land" of this novel anticipate the entropic landscapes of his later science-fiction novels such as Martian Time-Slip and Ubik.
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Format: Paperback
I loved this novel. The reactions the adulterers experience after their one 'affair' are so atypical of drama, film, TV but I suspect so accurate of human life. We can all learn many things from reading Dick's novels - both SF and otherwise. Somehow - even in extreme environments (which this novel does not show) - he shows everyday reality of the human mind.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read 2/3 of PKD's works now, even the off-stuff and found this one simply uninteresting. I felt somewhat like I was reading about a mild version of an early daytime soap opera with nothing really all that outstanding about any of the characters. I tried very hard to get into this book, picking it up and only really being able to read a few pages at a time without feeling sleepy and bored stiff. I started over, just to see if I missed something, and now just have given up halfway through. I prefer his whacked-out sci-fi over this. If you aren't so much into that, then this may be your cup of tea. For me, it just isn't worth trudging through the rest of the book....I really couldn't care less about the characters, the place, the time, or anything whatsoever about what was going on. Life is too short to waste your time on such an unimportant book.

UPDATE (spoilerish): I finally finished the book...2 months to finally drag myself to the last page. It did get better about 3/4 of the way in and was interesting toward the end, but wow...it just took forever for things to really get moving. It is sort of like reading about what would happen if Ward Cleaver went out and fooled around with someone and June Cleaver deciding to use his infidelity for her gain and to meet her own needs instead of just dumping him. It's a rather odd ending, and seems apparently like Roger ended up leaving for Liz after grabbing a bunch of sets to deliver on his way out of town to go to her...and thus leaving the shop to her and Liz's husband who remained clueless throughout. That's my interpretation anyway.
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