a photographer talks

Monday, October 26, 2009

PKD

Philip K. Dick
American Author 1928-1982
Noted works:
THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, 1962 (Hugo Award winner for Best Science
Fiction Novel of the year, 1963)
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP, 1968 (Filmed as BLADE RUNNER, 1982)

Typed letter Signed. 4 pages, 2600 words. Dated May 20, 1972. Signed "Love,
Phil" at end. In original mailing envelope with handwritten return address
signed
"Philip K. Dick". To Miss Beverly Davis of Vancouver BC. An intensely
personal document pertaining to the author's state of mind and his intimate
relationships.

UNPUBLISHED.

Accompanied by a paperback copy of the author's book UBIK, Dell Books,
1970, 1st paperback edition (stated), inscribed in an unknown hand on the
inner front
cover "Best Regards / To Phil / from Brian" and with an additional
inscription on the dedication leaf from the author to the recipient of the
letter "to Bev / with Love /
Philip K. Dick".

I have included full scans of the letter, envelope and book. A full
transcription of the letter is also included in this description. It is,
simply put, an amazing and
breathtaking piece.

Letter from Philip K. Dick to Bev Davies


May 20th, 1972


Dear Bev,
I’m so sorry not to have written you sooner, it being now over a month
since I left Vancouver, but I dislocated my shoulder, and my right arm and
hand have been immobilized. This really bumtripped me. Anyhow, how are you?
I think about you and your little boy a lot. I tell people here about you;
especially I tell the guy I’m living with how kind and warm and full of
life and humor and like that you are, and how really nice you treated me
when I was up there. Bev, you were nicer to me than anybody else I met in
Canada, and I’ll always remember that. You made me feel like a person. Such
a happy little home you two had, you and your baby; you made me feel
welcome. I miss you very much. “Maybe I ought to go back up there.” I was
saying to Joel the other day (the guy I live with). He’s a guy whose wife
and little baby just moved out when I arrived here; he was alone, like me,
missing and remembering a family that no longer existed. “Yes, you ought to
go back up there where she is,” Joel said, and then he said, “I wish I had
a Bev Davies in my life, now. You’re lucky.” I had described you and what
you are like. Maybe I should go back to Vancouver. What do you say?

It is super nice here, in many ways. Fullerton is a small modern stable
very right-wing college town, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles. It’s hot
and dry, here. No scenery, just level and brown. The buildings consist
mainly of Spanish-style apartment complexes, some extremely large, like 300
units. Not too expensive, though. The streets are clean. Cops are
everywhere. Little crime, no dope. Some good left-wing political activity
around the campus, and many bright, super nice students. Excellent
restaurants. Except, of course, for the 25 million McDonald Hamburger
stands, which are also modern and nice-looking. I’ve been over to the
college lecturing, meeting students. Much science fiction activity,
including other writers such as Ray Bradbury. Primarily, I’ve become
involved with a black-haired groovy spaced-out foxy chick (as we say here),
a wild, self-destructive, beautiful girl named Linda whom I love very much,
but who is hurting me and whom, I’m afraid, I’m hurting too. It’s a
love-suffering-grief-sorrow-laughter relationship, a great life-death
struggle between us and between our separate heads; there is a sort of
perpetual misunderstanding between us, and yet a continual attempt on both
our parts to keep going, keep trying to figure each other out. It is
melancholy, but punctuated with flashes of keen black humor by both of us.
Linda had written me while I was in Canada, and, when I got off the plane
at L.A. International, there she was waiting, with the others, to meet me.
Destiny in a miniskirt.

All this, you see, is a trippy, heavy number I’m doing with her, but it is
a massive fuck-up for both her and me, I think. Breaking it off, while I’m
living here, evidently is out of the question. I don’t want to break it
off, and she has notified me that she won’t let me even if (sometimes,
temporarily, when) I want to. “I’ll keep coming back,” Linda says
cheerfully, “whether you want me to or not.” Durability as you know, Bev,
permanency, is what I want most of all. That’s why, remember, Jamis
bumtripped me so much, her always bopping off – like your boy friend did. I
think you and I were looking for the same thing. That, I think, I do have
with Linda; it appears to be a durable relationship. But there is too much
pain in it. And Linda is, really, a chick rather than a woman. She likes to
be squired around, to restaurants and bars, to fancy places, and then she
drops me off at my apartment and drives over to hers where she and her
roommate Alice live, each in her own plastic, isolated room. Linda alone at
night, Alice alone at night, me alone, Joel alone – atomized individuals
waiting for the alarmclock to wake each of us to life, the daytime. Each
alone in his cubicle, like so many unborn bees. There is no abiding
relatedness.

-2-

What I want is a family. Joel and I both had families, once: not a wife but
a wife-and-child, an equation of several people. Watching day by day the
future, in the form of the child, appear before us. We see a lot of people;
I take Linda out, I take Mary the pretty red-haired actress in the next
apartment out, Joel and I take Susan and Merry Lou and so forth out, but
always it is a dating game: for a few hours each day in the evening we have
dinner together at a restaurant, then go somewhere, and divide up again, so
that our being together is merely a good-time interval to break the
monotony of the day. Linda has never so much as fixed a cup of coffee for
me, let alone fixed dinner for me (I fixed dinner once for her and me, but
neither of us could eat it; it wasn’t very good). This is not a putdown of
Linda, it just shows how she regards her apartment and mine: plastic
cubicles where we spend as little time as possible, doing all the important
things out somewhere else. God, we have no homes, let alone families. We
have pretty plastic cells, and we visit each evening to forget that
individually we have nothing. We do not even watch TV when we are alone; we
just cease to exist. If possible, we go to sleep. But Linda can’t sleep;
she tells me she cries a lot at night and suffers nebulous physical pain.
And, over all, a sense of emptiness, as if she doesn’t exist. Well, it
seems clear to me that she – and the rest of us here who live, either
voluntarily or involuntarily, this sort of life – will never come into
genuine existence until she develops a relationship with someone that does
not begin at six p.m. and ends at eleven p.m. The relationship, that is,
not the person
although for her under the circumstances the person, the
other person in her life, which I suppose is me, does in effect come into
existence at six and then wink back out at eleven. But essentially it is
she who disappears before and after those times, because I have a better
sense of continuity than she; I have lived, before this, a full-time life,
a twenty-four-hour-a-day life, with a wife and child. Someday, I suppose,
she will have that. But as yet she does not even want it; she does not even
seem to know of such an existence. And yet, by herself at night, she cries
and suffers and wishes – as she tells me – that there was someone to hear
her crying and respond to it.

I pointed out to her, in a letter which I wrote and handed to her, that
perhaps there is a connection between her dumping me off at my apartment at
eleven and then driving home to hers, alone, and there being no one at
night to hear her crying. “If you don’t want to sleep with me,” I wrote,
“then at least you can have my bed and I’ll sleep on the living room on the
couch. And that way I’ll hear you and you will hear me. And there’s no sex,
if that’s what’s bothering you. Think about it. Why drive home? Why not
stay here with Joel and me? What do you say? Doesn’t this make sense?”
Linda read the letter and put it away in her purse. “What’s your response?”
I asked her. “I’ll write you a letter back and let you know,” she said, and
left, driving home (it was ten-thirty p.m.) to her own apartment. The next
day I phoned her at work and asked her if she was going to be writing me in
response. “I’m afraid I’m too busy these days to write anything or even to
read,” Linda said, and changed the subject. There was no change in her
behavior after reading the letter. After reading it she departed even
earlier than before. This is not to put her down. It simply shows the gulf
between the thinking of two people who although they are very close and
care a lot for each other are really living in two separate worlds.

And yet oddly enough a sort of mellowness has set in between us. Our
relationship has reached a stasis; it is going nowhere, and if nothing good
can happen, then anyhow nothing bad can. Linda doesn’t have to be afraid of
what lies ahead. It is as if we have a fossilized, three-thousand-year-old
relationship, now;

-3-

I am an old friend in the bad sense of the word: I can be taken for
granted. If I haven’t split now I never will. It has become a compromise
between two highly intense personalities. It works, like an old marriage.
But it is barren. There is respect but not love. Predictability but not
spontaneity. We have sort of tacitly agreed not to zap each other
unexpectedly: surprises are bad – they have bumtripped us both – so there
will be no surprises. But, both very good and in a sense very
unanticipated, both Linda and I have come around to the space where we are
each of us, on his own, defending the other against outsiders. Instead of
each of us half-way agreeing with everybody else that the other was causing
us misery, she and I independently have begun drawing toward each other,
rather than away, when the other is attacked by well-intentioned – or
otherwise – friends. This is very good. This is a sort of simple shit
loyalty that has gradually come about between us, out of nowhere. The
forces around us which always before tended to pull us apart, as was the
intention, are moving her and me more solidly together. We have heard all
the assorted urgent reasons for not seeing each other, and then we have
gone on being glad when we next run across each other as if we had heard
nothing. This is another example of the absolute split between logic and
reality, I guess, with reality – fortunately – winning. It shows you can’t
think your way through life. You feel your way through.

I wonder, sometimes, if Linda will ever want to have a child. “There’s
something I want you to buy me.” She said last week. “You asked me if there
was anything you could get me, and there is something. We’ll go shopping
for it together; I want you to come along. It costs sixteen dollars,
though. But I really want it.” I asked her what it was. “A doll,” she said.
Her room is full of dolls already, and they talk to her, she says. When she
has bad dreams at night she wakes up to find her doll Snoopy on her chest,
trying to rouse her. Such a pretty, wistful, sad girl, just beginning to
become an adult, As the days go by I find myself thinking about her more
and more, and I love her more and more although I try to show it less. My
feelings are meaningless to her. She sees me primarily as something that
responds to her, that does not reject her or desert her no matter what she
does or says. Toward me she has no strong feelings at all, she says. I
listen to her funny little trippy things that she says; I perceive the
absurd, inventive creativity that she shows with words; I encourage her
unique, enormous linguistic ability; “I want to be with you,” she says,
“because you make me feel good. Nobody else does.” Looking at me she sees
herself reflected, a better self than she perceives when I’m not there. It
is Linda viewing Linda favorably. It is a good thing for us both that I
care a lot about her – care more for her than I do for myself, She needs it
and I don’t mind. But who is going to care for me? When I dislocated my
shoulder a couple of weeks ago she drove me to the hospital but she did not
care; she did not speak to me the whole way. She had no feelings
whatsoever. It made her mad because it meant that we couldn’t go (that is,
she couldn’t go) to a party that evening. So, for two hours on the freeway,
she did not utter a word to me. But she was so good about getting me to the
hospital. She wasted no time and drove superbly. Upon the latter, life
depends. It was not until I was all put back together that she ceased
talking to me; before she punished me for being faulty, for getting
injured, she made sure I was okay. The kind of love that gets you medical
help is more valuable in the sustaining of life than emotional, sentimental
love. “Here is help” is better than “I’m sorry you feel bad.” I never will
get Linda’s sympathy, but I do have her attention, and it is an expert,
intelligent attention in a bright little mind. I guess I would rather have
Linda Levy’s awareness than anyone else’s love. The effectiveness of her
response to my injury shows me that most kinds of love are merely gestures.

-4-

I think for me knowing Linda and being with her puts out of my mind a
certain despair that comes when your attention wanders from the present and
back to former times. I always had the feeling that things used to be
better. It’s hard for me to drop that perpetual attitude
A.E. Houseman put
it like this in “A Shropshire lad”:

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

This is where my head would be if it weren’t for Linda. This is where my
head has been at most of my life. When I was in Canada, for instance, I
thought back always to San Rafael, to Katherine, and when I was with
Katherine I’d recall my wife and child. If anything happened to Linda, or
to our relationship, my ability for the first time in my life to live
actually in the present would be abolished and once again my attention
would flow backward into lost time, lost people, other, former places.
Whether that relationship will end I do not know. Most relationships do. If
it does, I will come back to Canada. I suppose. It depends on what is
waiting for me there, and this largely depends on where your head is at.
What are you up to now, Bev? What is your life all about? I remember so
vividly your living room, the TV set, the overstuffed chair I sat in, you
drinking tea, your bathroom with the weird soup ad, your little boy. Is all
that still there? I hope so.

Put your arms around me, Bev. Hold me. Nobody else ever will.

Love, Phil


Philip K. Dick
3028 Quartz Lane Apt. #4
Fullerton,
Calif 92631
U.S.A.

3 comments:

  1. Hi my name is Paul Martin and i have the above letter and book in my PKD collection. It is a treasured part of the collection which is quite extensive. I know Linda Levy well who was mentioned in the letter which makes it all the better. I wonder who the "brian" was that inscribed the book to PKD although i think it may be the same Brian ( A Brian Nation?) who sold me a few inscribed PKD pbs a few years ago. Please let me know if this is the case. Also if you have any other signed or inscribed PKD or know anyone who does and wishes to sell them please let me know at: garciajones@yahoo.com. Thanks much.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Bev,
    This letter to you from Phil touches my heart. Thanks for being there for him.

    ReplyDelete

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