“To give yourself to [The Exegesis] completely…demands a degree of mania and stupefaction we would not wish on another human… But to give yourself to it in part, at leisure, and in a spirit of curiosity can be entrancing.”
–The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, Introduction by Jonathan Lethem and Pamela Jackson
And so The Exegesis read along begins. Will we maintain the leisure necessary, according to the editors, for the joyful trance? Or will we be converted and manic ourselves by the end?
The suspense builds. I have not yet read a single word of PKD’s text, but Lethem and Jackson’s introduction provides enough hints for budding excitement and curiosity. Still, I am wary. Lethem and Jackson do not romanticize the text, bluntly proclaiming that “The majority of these writings…are neither familiar nor wholly lucid nor, largely, elegant” (xii). And yet the text exerts its own gravity, pulling the curious into its pages, wrapping them in Dickian philosophy. I see mania in my future.
The Exegesis is a heavily edited excerpt of what was once over 8,000 mostly handwritten pages. In 1984, Jay Kinney published “A Summary of the Exegesis Based on Preliminary Forays,” the first to bring the Exegesis to light. Photocopied pages of The Exegesis were distributed by mail.
In 1991, PKD’s biographer Lawrence Sutin edited In Search of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis offering “an array of enigmatic morsels” from the core text. Curiosity about The Exegesis grew. Few had seen it, and it was beginning to take on a legendary status. Lethem and Jackson’s 944-page, annotated, indexed volume was published in 2011 by Houghton Mifflin.
And here we are, about to embark on a journey through the mind of Philip K. Dick. Ready or not…
If you’re reading along…leave your comments on the intro and links to your own thoughts on the subject in the comments below. This month’s novel is Ubik, and we will be reading pages 1-75 of The Exegesis.
Extra Curricular Material
Jonathan Lethem talks about The Exegesis:
Jonathan Lethem and Steve Erickson discuss The Exegesis on Bookworm:
In Search of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis edited by Lawrence Sutin
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jayne
Three Women by Robert Altman (film)
Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin