Why Jonathan Lethem Keeps Coming Back To Philip K. Dick

Motherless Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem started his career channeling Philip K. Dick, and now Lethem is returning to Dick's orbit. Lethem is editing a collection of four Dick novels, and says his new novel is his most Dickian in years.

In an interview in The Jewish Daily Forward, Lethem explains that his collection of four Dick novels — A Maze of Death, Valis, The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer — aims to prove that Dick's religious writing and his bizarre science fiction aren't separate, but come from the same source. Lethem will be editing and contextualizing these novels, and the result will be the third collection of Dick novels released by the Library Of America.

Lethem explains to the Forward how his relationship with Dick began just a little too late for him to meet his idol:

I was getting ready to drop out of college. I wanted to write novels instead, so I conceived the idea that I should run away to California and deliver myself to Philip K. Dick and be his acolyte. He died. I went anyway. By dumb luck I introduced myself to [a journalist and critic] who was running his estate. He ran it as a club. I was a junior member. Dick's work was rather miraculously revived into public life…. It's very rare for anyone in literary history to come back from being totally out of print to being in the canon. And that's what happened.

And Lethem says his new Manhattan novel Chronic City, coming out in October, "is in some ways back to his territory, but in a very different way, in a way I never could've conceived when I was 21 years old and trying to be the next Philip K. Dick." Lethem says he's influenced by Dick's "sense of humor, his perverse commitment to his own ideas of what's funny or interesting, his sense of velocity and strangeness." [The Jewish Daily Forward]