I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrère #FridayReads

I Am Alive and You Are Dead by Emmanuel CarrèreI had this book sitting in my Amazon wish list for years before I realized that the library owns a copy. Here’s what I can tell you about it from my vantage point at the halfway mark: it’s good. Really good. It’s one of the more absorbing and readable biographies that I’ve encountered. Instead of giving an academic, exhaustive account of his life, Carrère looks at Philip K. Dick through the prism of his work. He moves chronologically through the events of PKD’s life, but focuses on those events, people, ideas and obsessions that go on to inform PKD’s most notable works. If you know much about PKD’s novels and short fiction, you can recognize what Carrère is doing early on. Carrère’s writing takes its cue from what’s going on in PKD’s life and (as far as we are able to make out) in his head. He manages to depict PKD’s paranoia and prescription drug habits without glamorizing them or feeding into the trope that writers must not seek treatment for addiction or mental illness in order to create. It’s a very well-written and at times harrowing look into the extraordinary mind of a writer who inhabited the border between genius and mental breakdown.

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