Exegesis, Dick’s ‘personal laboratory for philosophical inquiry’ to be issued in two volumes in 2011

A vast set of mostly unseen personal journals in which SF author Philip K Dick “took on the universe mano a mano” has been acquired by a US publisher.

The author of novels including the Hugo award-winning The Man in the High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Minority Report, Dick died aged 53 in 1982. In 1974, recuperating from having had his wisdom teeth extracted and under the influence of sodium pentothal, the author had a series of visions in which a “pink light” beam of information transmitted directly into his consciousness; these “2-3-74” experiences would inform his writing for the rest of his life, and he would attempt to unravel them in the “Exegesis”.

Although a selection from the mostly handwritten journal was published in 1991 as In the Pursuit of VALIS: Selections from the Exegesis, thousands of pages of Dick’s journal, including autobiographical material, philosophical speculation and analysis of his fiction, have not been published. The author’s daughters, Laura Leslie and Lisa Dick Hackett, said the publication of The Exegesis of Philip K Dick “has been a goal of ours for years”, and they were “thrilled” that US publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) shared the goal, acquiring North American rights in the previously unpublished two-volume Exegesis with plans to bring out the first book next autumn.

The journals, which HMH’s Bruce Nichols said served “as the foundation for ideas and themes that would appear throughout the work of this visionary author”, will be edited by critically-acclaimed author and Dick expert Jonathan Lethem, along with Pamela Jackson, author of a PhD on 2-3-74 and Dick’s Exegesis.

“The title he gave it, ‘Exegesis,’ alludes to the fact that what it really was was a personal laboratory for philosophical inquiry. It’s not even a single manuscript, in a sense. It’s an amassing or a compilation of late-night all-night sessions of him taking on the universe, mano a mano, with the tools of the English language and his own paranoiac investigations,” Lethem told the New York Times . “It’s absolutely stultifying, it’s brilliant, it’s repetitive, it’s contradictory. It just might contain the secret of the universe.”

HMH also snapped up rights in 39 titles from Dick’s backlist, which it will publish in autumn 2011. Nichols said the author’s books were “as provocative and cutting-edge today as ever” and that “each generation wants to claim him as its own”.

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