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Dear Phil an Epistolary Discourse No 5

Dear Phil an Epistolary Discourse No 5

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Published by Frank Bertrand

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Published by: Frank Bertrand on Aug 09, 2011
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08/09/2011

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Dear Phil: An Epistolary Discourse #5By Frank C. Bertrand[
NOTE:
This first appeared at the original philipkdickfans.com website,created and so ably administered by Jason Koornick, in the second half of2001. Please see Discourse #1 for an “Introduction” to the series of six thatwere completed]
Dear Phil,I recently finished rereading, Phil, you 1964 novel
Martian Time-Slip 
(serialized in 1963),while recovering from right inguinal hernia surgery. And I’m not too sure, at this point,which had a more deleterious effect, because I found your novel even more dark,depressing and somber than I had remembered it. It’s as if Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”were put in a literary Cuisinart with most anything by Kafka to which is added a strongdash of Beckett. I mean, the indigenous Martians in that novel are aptly named,Bleekmen. Bleek, indeed, even more so than
A Scanner Darkly 
.Then I happened to recall an essay by one of your favorite intellectual heroes, CarlGustav Jung. It’s the one titled “Psychologie und die Literaturwissenschaft,” from 1929,also available in his 1933 collection
Modern Man In Search Of A Soul 
. No, Phil, I don’tthink this was caused by the post-op Percoset fog I was in but by two particular phrasesin Jung’s essay: “…for it is a vision seen ‘as in a glass, darkly’,” and, “…it is awakenedwhenever the times are out of joint…” Sound familiar, don’t’ they? Say, you didn’t liftthese from him, did you?Anyways, in his essay Jung writes primarily about two modes of artistic creation, the“visionary” and the “psychological.” Of the latter he writes:
“I have called this mode of artistic creation psychological becausein its activity it nowhere transcends the bounds of psychologicalintelligibility. Everything that is embraces – the experience as wellas its artistic expression – belongs in the realm of the understandable.”
These experiences are drawn from the realm of human consciousness, that is,emotional shocks, lessons of life, passion, and crises of human destiny. The writerpsychically assimilates them and gives “…an expression which forces the reader togreater clarity and depth of human insight…” As examples Jung cites “many novelsdealing with love, the environment, the family, crime and society, as well as didacticpoetry, the larger number of lyrics, and the drama, both tragic and comic.” In particularhe noted the first part of the
Faust 
drama, in that “The love-tragedy of Gretchen explainsitself, there is nothing that the psychologist can add to it that the poet has not alreadysaid in better words.”
 
Now, I don’t know, Phil, if you’re familiar with this Jung essay, but regards his“psychological mode” and the examples he gives, I found the drama, both tragic andcomic intriguing because I know that in a September ’81 interview with Gregg Rickman,you said about
Martian Time-Slip 
, and other novels you wrote in the early 60s, “They allhad the same element of humor – they were balanced, they were beautifully balancedbetween humor and tragedy.” If there is humor in
Martian Time-Slip 
, it is, I think, of the“black humor” variety, in the sense Max Schulz defined it in 1973: “…a comicperspective on tragic fact and moralistic certitude,” or perhaps what T.S. Eliot, in adifferent context, wrote in “Little Gidding” (1942): “the conscious impotence of rage / Athuman folly, and the laceration of laugher at what ceases to amuse.” That is, the worldis seen as a dark and hopeless place with no light in any direction – a setting void ofexcitement and color. And to survive in such a world a defensive type of humor is usedto laugh at things which are cruel, unusual, absurd, or sad. There is a black andhumorous juxtaposition of the noble and the alienated, the heroic and the foolish.Actually, I’m a bit surprised, Phil, that more hasn’t been made of your use of blackhumor in many of your stories and novels.I mention this because of Jung’s second artistic mode of creation, the “visionary,” whichhe describes as:
“…a strange something that derives its existence from thehinterland of man’s mind – that suggests the abyss of timeseparating us from pre-human ages, or evokes a super-human world of contrasting light and darkness….It arisesfrom timeless depths, it is foreign and cold, many-sided,demonic and grotesque.”
He finds this, amongst others, in Dante, the second part of
Faust 
, in Nietzsche’sDionysian exuberance, Wagner’s
Nibelungenring 
, the poetry of William Blake, and RiderHaggard’s fiction-cycle that turns on
She 
. By such works, Jung writes, “We arereminded in nothing of everyday, human life, but rather of dreams, night-time fears andthe dark recesses of the mind that we sometimes sense with misgiving.”As I was reminded of nighttime fears and the dark recesses of the mind when I reread
Martian Time-Slip 
, in which you just happen to allude to Jung in chapter 7 and 11. Iwonder, then, what Jung would think of this novel? I suspect he might say, as he writesin his essay, that it’s a “…disturbing vision of monstrous and meaningless happeningsthat in every way exceed the grasp of human feelings and comprehension [that] makesquite other demands upon the powers of the artist than do the experiences of theforeground of life.” Perhaps more to the point, as I now reconsider
Martian Time-Slip 
, iswhat he states about writers of such works:
“Being essentially the instrument for his work, he is subordinateot it, and we have no reason for expecting him to interpret itfor us. He has done the best that in him lies in giving if form,and he must leave the interpretation to others and to the future.

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