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I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into…

I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick (1993)

by Emmanuel Carrere

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While this book told me what I wanted to know about Philip K. Dick, it also tells much more than I wanted to know about the plots of his books. There are still a number of Dick's novels that I want to read, and so it was frustrating to find that Carrere outlines in detail the plot of each book. I've never read a biography that goes into such detail about an author's works. His point was to show how intricately entwined Dick's fiction was with his personal life. But for those of us who haven't read all of Dick's books, yet still plan to, this is not ideal reading. If I had read all of his books already, I wouldn't have minded and probably would've appreciated the book even more. As it was, I had to skip over large chunks of potential plot spoilers. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
Actually very sad. I'm still laughing about the part " ... and after many years of bible study she was convinced that Jesus Christ lived at the center of the earth in a glass coffin that protected him from wizards. " ~ ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
Fascinating. He's even more strange than you'd think from the books. Not quite as good as the best of his books but interesting all the same. ( )
  jerhogan | Jan 15, 2013 |
Carrère makes a pretty good stab at the journey: Philip K Dick's mind must have been a pretty strange place.

I knew he was a complicated man with a paranoid tendency, but there are suggestions of things I never dreamed of (for example, his religious side). Perhaps I never read the books with that in mind. It has certainly inspired me to read some more Philip K Dick, something I haven't done for a long time.

The title of Peter Cook's writings "Tragically I was an only twin", could equally well be applied to this book - in a less comic way. ( )
  ten_floors_up | Aug 9, 2011 |
Quarter of a century after his death, Philip K. Dick’s reputation and status is beginning to transcend mere founding fatherhood of modern science fiction and drift towards a more general greatness within the broader pastures of modern American literature.

Dick was exasperated about the perceived limitations of his genre while he was alive but before his untimely death in 1982 he had received industry acclaim for "The Man in the High Castle" in the sixties, but otherwise had garnered only cult following. Broader recognition beckoned - Ridley Scott’s "Blade Runner", based on Dick’s altogether more complex "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was in post-production. Fame and fortune beckoned, but by this stage, as Emmanuel Carrere makes plain, even if he had not suffered massive stroke, Philip K Dick was in no state, mental or physical, to enjoy or capitalise on it.

That Dick was a troubled soul is relatively well known, but Carrere’s biography explores and extrapolates Dick’s unstable mental state into his literature and life choices, which became increasingly bizarre as the Seventies wore on. Carrere sources Dick’s discord in the death in infancy of his twin sister Jane, and was compounded by Dick’s hypochondria – and has produced an effervescent and fascinating portrait. Carrere, perhaps by taking some licence, gives us a close and personal view into his subject’s unusually complex psyche which is rare in a contemporary biography (the only other comparable example I can recall is the Gilmans’ excellent "Alias David Bowie"). Because of Carrere’s aproach, Philip K. Dick is made very real on the page.

Some will complain that Carerre’s approach crosses a sacred line into fictionalising, but philosophically I don’t have a problem with that (I’m not sure there even is such a line in fact): particularly since Philip K Dick is long dead, outside the content of his oeuvre we don't have any “facts” against which Carrere’s story can be measured – which will give pause in some quarters – but it doesn’t feel to me that Carrere has breached the poetic licence he undoubtedly as as a biographer. That the complaints, such as they are, have mostly been “in principle” and not on substance seems to confirm that. These are fair fictionalisations, that is, and they paint a vibrant and fascinating picture of the man and an excellent introduction to his major works which are analysed and contextualised in a good amount of detail.

The implication, never actually made, is that Dick’s hypochondria transcended simple pharmaceutical dependence and evolved into paranoia and ultimately genuine psychiatric illness. One might wonder what effect the cinematic success of Blade Runner and the many subsequent Dick dramatisations might have had on his mental state and subsequent writing career, but not for long: on Carrere’s account he was a burnt-out husk by the end so, most likely, none.

Carrere is a novelist himself, and he writes well – as, it should be said, does his translator. This didn’t feel at all like a translated book.

Well recommended. ( )
  ElectricRay | Oct 4, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Emmanuel Carrereprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bent, TimothyTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am sure, as you hear me say this, you do not truly believe me, or even believe that I believe it myself. But nevertheless it is true. . . . You are free to believe me or free to disbelieve, but please take my word on it that I am not joking; this is very serious, a matter of importance. I am sure that at the very least you will agree that for me even to claim this is in itself amazing. Often people claim to remember past lives; I claim to remember a different, very different, present life. I know of no one who has ever made that claim before, but I rather suspect that my experience is not unique; what perhaps is unique is the fact that I am willing to talk about it. -- FROM A SPEECH GIVEN BY PHILIP K. DICK IN FRANCE, SEPTEMBER 24, 1977
For Anne
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The book you hold in your hands is a very peculiar book.
He had never had imagination; he had only written reports.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312424515, Paperback)

For his many devoted readers, Philip K. Dick is not only one of the "one of the most valiant psychological explorers of the 20th century" (The New York Times) but a source of divine revelation. In the riveting style that won accolades for The Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère follows Dick's strange odyssey from his traumatic beginnings in 1928, when his twin sister died in infancy, to his lonely end in 1982, beset by mystical visions of swirling pink light, three-eyed invaders, and messages from the Roman Empire. Drawing on interviews as well as unpublished sources, he vividly conjures the spirit of this restless observer of American postwar malaise who subverted the materials of science fiction--parallel universes, intricate time loops, collective delusions--to create classic works of contemporary anxiety.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:01 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Critically acclaimed author of the adversary chronicles the life of the science fiction master, from his traumatic origins as the twin that lived, through his tragic disintegration into madness.

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