May 16, 2007

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In latest National Review on author Philip K. Dick:
If only Dick, born in 1928, had lived to 78 instead of just 53. A quarter-century after his death, he is finally considered not just a serious American writer but one of the century’s greatest. At least, that’s one conclusion to be drawn from Dick’s inclusion in the Library of America: the first science-fiction writer to be so canonized in what is the closest thing to secular sainthood in American letters. Best known for collecting the works of such titans as James and Faulkner, the Library of America presents “America’s best and most significant writing in authoritative editions.” And Dick has been included not for his realist books, which finally started appearing in print posthumously, but for some of his most outlandish sci-fi creations...

His books are filled with learning; this college dropout effortlessly references Shakespeare, the Bible, and the I Ching. (Novelist Jonathan Lethem has written endnotes that could have been a bit more extensive.)

Fortunately, Dick used his gifts to speak eloquently about the dominant themes of the 20th century. His books offer hope, reminding us that, mistake-prone though we are, free will means we have at least the means of making the right decisions. As a character in Palmer Eldritch asks, “Isn’t a miserable reality better than the most interesting illusion?”

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