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Few writers have placed so much autobiographical material in their stories as Philip K Dick. To the casual reader he is the man behind Minority Report, Blade Runner, the only film made in his life time, Dick would get to visit the set and gave the project his approval, but he died before its completion. In all, twelve of his books have been made into films and recently The Man in the High Castle was turned into a successful television show. All of these works, and the stories which have yet to be adapted, have one thing in common, on some level or other they all question the notion of what is real and how are you able to tell the difference between the real and the fake...?
Kyle Arnold’s book, The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick (2016. 234 pages) sets out to explore the demons which beset Dick. Kyle is by trade a clinical psychologist and it is from this perspective of psychobiographical research that Dick and his work are examined.
Dick did not have an easy childhood and only survived by accident where his twin sister did not. This set off a series of psychologically significant events which then shaped the adult Dick and his writing.
For the most part the book takes a linear line, starting with Dick's earliest years and juxtaposes how those events informed particular themes, or in certain cases his experiences formed the basis of a particular story.
Kyle shows Dick, warts and all. [Did you really think that one would slip past me? - Ed]. On the one hand you're likely to feel appalled about the general neglect he experienced as a child, or the death of Jane, his twin, an event he never really got over. People remember him as charming, but only if he wanted something, otherwise the story of his amphetamine addiction, his violence and chronic insecurity make him a difficult man to like.
Kyle presents a good argument and the research feels sound. Well worth a read if you want to peeks behind the genesis of Dick’s best work.