There are things we love because they are us in the form of art – I’ve been working through The Sopranos and not thinking it was the greatest thing ever, and fans have told me that if you’re Catholic and/or clinically depressed, it’s as if David Chase had put your worldview onscreen. And I get that, because Mad Men scratches that same itch in me; optimism in people’s better natures, clear-eyed acceptance of falling short of that ideal, and a fascination with words and their beautiful arrangement are all qualities I at least like to think I have. And there are things we don’t like because they’re totally alien to us; I probably don’t need to say more than the words Steven Universe at this point.
But there are also things that are everything we shouldn’t like, yet somehow do. On paper, I don’t look like a guy with much taste for Dick. Phillip K Dick is well known, even amongst his fans, as having a somewhat dry prose and characterisation. He himself would claim he never wrote better than in one of his earliest published short stories, “Roog”, and like so many men who have been accused of not writing women well, he’s never really written men all that well either. And his stories are drenched in Gnostic themes, whereas I’m so much of an atheist, raised by atheists, that I’ve never been entirely sure what the word ‘Gnostic’ even means.
What I realise now is that Dick doesn’t reflect what I see when I look outward, Dick reflects what I see when I look inward; to put it another way, I see Dick in my dreams. His nightmare of a world where the giant metal face of God looks down on humanity isn’t something I see every day the way I see Don Draper or Peter Campbell*, but it is the kind of thing I dream about. Dick’s unparalleled imagination, often scifi in tone, is as relentless as any dream I’ve had – and of course, nobody has ever complained about the cardboard characters or style of their dreams. My original intention was to explain how Dick appealed to me despite not fitting my personal taste, but I can see now what he really does is take something familiar to me – dreams – and changes its location, from internal to external.
What are some things you like that aren’t what you’d consider your normal taste?
*Though to be fair, that is something that actually happened to him.