Literary scifi nerd Jonathan Lethem, author of Fortress of Solitude, has just published an essay about his lifelong relationship with the work of Philip K. Dick. It's wistful and weird, and now it's also available for free on his website.
The essay, called "Crazy Friend," is a winding, mildly obsessive tale of how Dick's stories guided Lethem out of childhood, into a turbulent adolescence, and at last settled him in a career as a critically-acclaimed writer. He begins by talking about his boyhood relationship with two cool older girls who didn't get why he thought Dick's writing was so important, and ends by introducing us to Lethem's life as a Dick fanboy and showing us snippets of his early writing about Dick (some interesting stuff). Ultimately, Lethem says, Dick is the archetypal "crazy friend" whom we've all known. And whom we all love.
Plus, we get to find out more about Lethem's tattoo:
I [selected] a gooey fictional substance that gives title to the book in which it appears – I dare you to think of another example.* I never wear sleeveless shirts, but word of my tattoo has circulated, slightly, a viral rider on my own moderate fame, and I'm occasionally called on by sly interlocutors to sheepishly exhibit it while signing at a bookstore. In two decades I've watched my spray can swell, shrink and grow slack with the changing contours of my arm, gain hairs, survive mosquito bites. The simple colors haven't faded badly, but the blue outline has blurred, victim of the entropy the spray-product Ubik was supposed to combat. Dick ensured Ubik's immortality; I've ensured its mortality.
If you've enjoyed Lethem's novels, or are a fan of Dick, this is a must-read.
Read the rest on Jonathan Lethem's website.