A MATERIALIST READING OF P.K. DICK: Evan Lampe and the world we live in

For those interested in Philip K Dick Evan Lampe’s “Philip K. Dick Book Club” (a rubric on his American Writers podcast) is an amazing resource, together with his blog Philip K. Dick Review, and his book PHILIP K DICK AND THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.

The title of Lampe’s book on P. K. DICK expresses the essence of his approach. He does not indulge in starry-eyed adulation of an oracle or in pseudo-mystical escapism. For Evan Lampe Dick’s stories and novels are about our world of global capitalism and our lives within it.

Of course, this is a one-sided reading, for example Lampe does not give much shrift to Dick’s Gnosticism or to his ontological speculations, but I do not think that Lampe rejects other approaches, such as epistemological, ontological, religious, or meta-linguistic readings of P. K. Dick. Lampe simply pursues with tenacity his own interpretative hypothesis, reading Dick in materialist and sociological terms.

This is a difference of approach that I have with Evan Lampe. I find that the Gnosticism can often illuminate even the earlier pre-gnostic works. Lampe sticks to his materialist hypothesis and offers us the completest interpretation to date. Lampe’s readings are very often illuminating, even if one-sided. I do not think he is being reductive or exclusionary of other approaches.

I myself read P.K. Dick through Deleuze (and Laruelle, Stiegler, Latour, and many others). These are all materialists, but they give us the means to take Dick’s gnosticism seriously. I see no incompatibility. No one person can do everything, but Evan Lampe’s readings are very useful.

I use Evan Lampe’s book, blog, and podcast not as a definitive summa of P.K. Dick’s thought, but as a rich source of hermeneutic catalysts for reading Dick. If ever I feel stuck or stumped, with no (or incomplete) insight into a story, I can turn to these resources and generally find a useful approach.

For those interested in Philip K. Dick’s work I can recommend they read Evan Lampe”s blog or book, and listen to his podcast. If you have another reading of Dick you cannot decide in advance that a materialist reading is all no good.

Lampe’s approach is comprehensive but inevitably one-sided. It compensates for other readings that are themselves one-sided, but in the opposite direction. His approach is no doubt incomplete, but I always draw insight from it.

Note: I am indebted to a twitter discussion with Burton Fisher for helping me clarify my ideas.