Emmanuel Carrére on Philip K. Dick

Interviewer: What attracted you so much to Dick?

Carrére: For me, he’s the Dostoyevsky of the twentieth century, the guy who understood it all. Actually, I am struck by his posthumous life—not only all the movies based on his books, but all the movies that aren’t, like The Matrix, The Truman Show, and Inception, that show reality disappearing behind its representation. It used to bother me that all these people didn’t admit their debt to Dick. But in the end, I think it’s great. WHat twenty years ago we called the world of Philip K. Dick is now just the world. We don’t need to cite him anymore. He’s won. 

[The Paris Review]

As regards my own attention span and concentrational abilities? I’m as much pond life by now as anyone else is, but I do try, I make an effort – on a dreary pragmatic level, this involves me not going online in the mornings. If I reach to the bedside table first thing and start checking email, that’s pretty much it, I’m in flitty online mode for the day, and I won’t get any work done. So I don’t go online now until the afternoon, and this means that I still get some work done. I don’t want it to be all doom-and-gloom here – I do believe that humans still need and will continue to need stories, and we just have to get through the sea of distractions (somehow) and deliver them.
I cannot now recall exactly what creatures I saw on that visit to the Antwerp Nocturama, but there were probably bats and jerboas from Egypt and the Gobi Desert, native European hedgehogs and owls, Australian opossums, pine martens, dormice, and lemurs, leaping from branch to branch, darting back and forth over the grayish-yellow sandy ground, or disappearing into a bamboo thicket. The only animal which has remained lingering in my memory is the raccoon. I watched it for a long time as it say beside a little stream with a serious expression on its face, washing the same piece of apple over and over again, as if it hoped that all this washing, which went far beyond any reasonable thoroughness, would help it to escape the unreal world in which it had arrived, so to speak, through no fault of its own. Otherwise, all I remember of the Nocturama is that several of them had strikingly large eyes, and the fixed, inquiring gaze found in certain painters and philosophers who seek to penetrate the darkness which surrounds us purely by means of looking and thinking.
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz. 
But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.
Achebe, Things Fall Apart

This past spring, I wrote an essay on DFW’s The Pale King and it’s relationship to acedia, which is something like a cross between despair and sloth. My thesis examiner was a Jane Austen scholar who teaches ESL, poses in Victorian dresses for local newspapers, and had never heard of Wallace. She also hated the essayistic style of the piece, which was reflected in the grade she gave me.  But I learned a lot, and, in retrospect, am proud of the work. 

It’s online now, and I thought I’d post it in case anyone is interested…and has a fair amount of time on their hands. If you do choose to read it, you may want to skip the bio section, which is slightly wrong in a few places. (Wallace wasn’t always honest with interviewers, as the new DT Max bio reveals.) 

There’s two weeks of stuff you can teach someone who hasn’t written fifty things yet and is still kind of learning. Then it becomes more a matter of managing various people’s subjective impressions about how to tell the truth vs. obliterating someone’s ego.
DFW on teaching fiction

"The Geography of the House," W.H. Auden

Seated after breakfast 
In this white-tiled cabin 
Arabs call the House where 
Everybody goes, 
Even melancholics 
Raise a cheer to Mrs. 
Nature for the primal 
Pleasure She bestows. 

Sex is but a dream to 
Seventy-and-over, 
But a joy proposed un- 
-til we start to shave: 
Mouth-delight depends on 
Virtue in the cook, but 
This She guarantees from 
Cradle unto grave. 

Lifted off the potty, 
Infants from their mothers 
Hear their first impartial 
Words of worldly praise: 
Hence, to start the morning 
With a satisfactory 
Dump is a good omen 
All our adult days. 

Revelation came to 
Luther in a privy 
(Crosswords have been solved there) 
Rodin was no fool 
When he cast his Thinker, 
Cogitating deeply, 
Crouched in the position 
Of a man at stool. 

All the arts derive from 
This ur-act of making, 
Private to the artist: 
Makers’ lives are spent 
Striving in their chosen 
Medium to produce a 
De-narcissus-ized en- 
During excrement. 

Freud did not invent the 
Constipated miser: 
Banks have letter boxes 
Built in their façade 
Marked For Night Deposits, 
Stocks are firm or liquid, 
Currencies of nations 
Either soft or hard. 

Global Mother, keep our 
Bowels of compassion 
Open through our lifetime, 
Purge our minds as well: 
Grant us a king ending, 
Not a second childhood, 
Petulant, weak-sphinctered, 
In a cheap hotel. 

Keep us in our station: 
When we get pound-notish, 
When we seem about to 
Take up Higher Thought, 
Send us some deflating 
Image like the pained ex- 
-pression on a Major 
Prophet taken short. 

(Orthodoxy ought to 
Bless our modern plumbing: 
Swift and St. Augustine 
Lived in centuries 
When a stench of sewage 
Made a strong debating 
Point for Manichees.) 

Mind and Body run on 
Different timetables: 
Not until our morning 
Visit here can we 
Leave the dead concerns of 
Yesterday behind us, 
Face with all our courage 
What is now to be.

[via Dave Bruner]

My wonderful wife and closest ally, Emily Raboteau, gave me great help with this book. She also gave me our son, Geronimo, who is a badass. Little man, I knew you were dop ever since you were semen!
Victor LaValle, from the author’s note in The Devil In Silver.
V’s depression was partly due to the emotional toll of these studies, which she once described as looking out across a river on a day of heavy rain, so that she couldn’t be sure whether the activity on the opposite bank had anything to do with her, or whether, in fact, there was any activity there at all.
Teju Cole, Open City