under the control of a clearly crazy author


But Dick has also become for our time what Edgar Allan Poe was for Gilded Age America: the doomed genius who supplies a style of horrors and frissons. (In both cases, it took the French to see it; the first good critical writing on Dick, as on Poe, came from Europe, and particularly from Paris.) Like Poe’s, Dick’s last big book was a work of cosmic explanation in which lightning bolts of brilliance flash over salty oceans of insanity. Poe’s explanation of everything was called “Eureka.” Dick’s was “VALIS.” The second, literary Dick is now in the Library of America ($35), under the excellent editorial care of Jonathan Lethem, a passionate devotee, who also provides an abbreviated chronology of Dick’s tormented life. Four of the sixties novels are neatly packed together in the handsome black covers: “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (the original of “Blade Runner”), and his masterpiece, “Ubik.”

Dick’s fans are not modest in their claims. Nor are they especially precise: Borges, Calvino, Kafka, Robertson Davies are cited, in the blurbs and introductions, as his peers. A note of inconsistency inflects these claims—Calvino and Robertson Davies?—but they are sincerely made and, despite all those movies and all that praise, have a slight, useful tang of hyperbolic defensiveness.

more from The New Yorker here.