Monday, November 22, 2010

Philip K. Dick in Marin Co.

RECENTLY your humble blogger ventured to Point Reyes Station, a beautiful little town on the Marin Coast, where Philip K. Dick spent several reclusive and very productive years. They were also perhaps his greatest period, during which he wrote The Man in the High Castle and began The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich.

The result is this New York Times story, which runs Tuesday and looks at a memoir/biography by his third wife, Anne Dick, called, The Search for Philip K. Dick.

In some ways, the area hasn't changed all that much since he lived there 50 years ago. West Marin is an isolated region of rolling hills, wind-swept beaches and small farms: Back then ranchers and farm workers dominated what’s become a liberal, affluent county north of the San Francisco Bay. On the street where the Dicks lived, it’s still easy to be startled by deer crossing the road, especially on nights when the fog has rolled in, and the region’s scent of redwood, fir and forest floor is strong. 

Anne described a lot of details I didn't have room for: At night the couple would play board games and Dick, who had worked at classical record stores in Berkeley in the ‘50s, would play Purcell or Schubert on the record player.

David Gill, who runs the Total Dick-head blog and wrote the book's introduction, spoke to me about "Dick's family-man period." He also observed that west Marin -- with its remoteness from civilization and tendency to shortages -- may've served as the author's model for the Mars he described in the novel Martian Time-Slip.

Our sense of an artist’s development usually involves some kind of external stimulus that knocks creativity into a higher pitch. But nobody knows where it comes from.

“Sometimes artists just do things because they’re ready to,” Jonathan Lethem told me. “But look at his life relationally: Dick was a son – an adolescent,” during his early, childless years, moving through a series of mentor relationships.

“In Marin, Anne was an adult in a different way than he was used to. Everything forced him into a role as a father as an adult. You can see the rest of his life as a running from that. But it also deepened the work.”

1 comment:

V. said...

Loved opening my NYT and seeing this story. Read a few grafs and then checked the byline -- whoohoo!