Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Awesome Quotes from Philip K. Dick’s "A Scanner Darkly"

I am currently reading the novel A Scanner Darkly, by the science fiction genius Philip K. Dick, who spent the last years of his life living and writing in Orange County.  His novels, including A Scanner Darkly, offer not just good dystopian science fiction, but a kind of commentary on this region—known for conservatism, suburbs, malls, Disneyland, smog, and artificial environments.  A Scanner Darkly follows the misadventures of a group of drug addicts, one of whom is an undercover drug enforcement officer with the Orange County Sheriff’s office, who is asked to spy on himself.  It’s a mind-bending work of fiction that raises questions about the nature of reality, surveillance, and the possibility of self-awareness.  It also presents, with a certain pathos, the underground drug culture of Orange County in the 1970s.  I intend to write a full book report on this amazing novel, but in the meantime, here are some great quotes I underlined while reading…

“Holy parishioners, let us call on God at this time to request His intervention in the agonies of those who are thrashing about on their beds withdrawing.

“To survive in this fascist police state, he thought, you gotta always be able to come up with a name, your name.”

“Stores this side of the mall, requiring no credit card, with no armed guards, didn’t amount to much.”

“Everybody bangs me.” She amended that. “Tries to anyhow.  That’s what it’s like to be a chick.”

“Happiness, he thought, is knowing you got some pills.”

“Looking at his audience, he realized how much he detested straights.”

“Because this is what gets people on dope, he thought, This is why you lurch off and become a doper, this sort of stuff.  This is why you give up and leave.  In disgust.”

“What is identity? he asked himself.  Where does the act end?  Nobody knows.”

“This is a world of illness, and getting progressively worse.”

“Every guy has one thing he treasures.”

“Sometimes I wish I knew how to go crazy.  I forget how.”

“With the audio always up too loud inside his head.”

“But in this dark world where he now dwelt, ugly things and surprising things and once in a long while a tiny wondrous thing spilled out at him constantly.”

“What did any man, doing any kind of work, know about his actual motives?”

“There seemed to be nothing that contributed more to squalor than a bunch of basalt-block structures designed to lift people out of squalor.”

“The smell of smog, the bright, hot light of midday—it all had a rancid quality, as if, throughout, his world had putrefied, rather than anything else.  Not so much become all at once, but because of this, dangerous, not frightening, but more as if rotting away, stinking in sight and sound and odor.  It made him sick, and he shut his eyes and shuddered.”

“What an undercover narcotics agent fears most is not that he will be shot or beaten up but that he will be slipped a great hit of some psychedelic that will roll an endless horror feature film in his head for the remainder of his life.”

“Every nation in the world, he knew, trains and sends out a mass of agents to loosen bolts here, strip threads there, break wires and start little fires, lose documents—little misadventures.”

“If I had known it was harmless, I would have killed it myself.”

“He had witnessed junkies feeding and caring for injured animals over long periods of time, where straights probably would have had the animals ‘put to sleep,’ a straight-type term if there ever was one—and also an old Syndicate term as well, for murder.”

“As to ‘priceless works of art’ he wasn’t too sure, because he didn’t exactly understand what that meant.  At My Lai during the Vietnam War, four hundred and fifty priceless works of art had been vandalized to death at the orders of the CIA—priceless works of art plus oxen and chickens and other animals not listed.  When he thought about that he always got a little dingy and was hard to reason with about paintings in museums like that.”

“To himself, Bob Arctor thought, How many Bob Arctors are there?  A weird and fucked-up thought.”

“Donna, always, was a pivot-point of reality for him.”

“Everything fell under constant video scrutiny, as well as audio.”

“I wonder what the country is like.  The fields and like that, the strange smells.  And, he wondered, where do you find that?  Where do you go and how do you get there and stay there?  What kind of trip is that, and what kind of ticket does it take?  And who do you buy the ticket from?  And, he thought, I would like to take someone with me when I go there, maybe Donna…we should hurry, he thought, because later on all the spring flowers like they told me about will be dead.”

“Someday he’d suddenly roll the perfect joint and it would be placed under glass and helium back at Constitution Hall, as part of American history with those other items of similar importance.”

“The most dangerous kind of person,” Arctor said, “is one who is afraid of his own shadow.”

“A nightmare, a weird other world beyond the mirror, a terror city reverse thing, with unrecognizable entities creeping about; Donna creeping on all fours, eating from the animals’s dishes…any kind of psychedelic wild trip, unfathomable and horrid.”

“Bob Arctor, he speculated, may learn more new information about himself than he is ready for.”

“There is something wonderful and full of life about you and sweet and I would never destroy it.  I don’t understand it, but there it is.”

“What’s there really in this world, Bob?  It’s a stopping place to the next where they punish us here because we were born evil—“

“But the actual touch of her lingered, inside his heart.  That remained.  In all the years of his life ahead, the long years without her, with never seeing her or hearing from her or knowing anything about her, if she was alive or happy or dead or what, that touch stayed locked within him, sealed in himself, and never went away.  That one touch of her hand.”

“And eventually the junkie, if it’s a chick, has nothing to sell but her body.  Like Connie, he thought.  Connie right here.”

“And this was Orange County.  Full of Birchers and Minutemen.  With guns.  Looking for just this kind of uppity sass from bearded dopers.”

“Funny thing happened to me on the way to the grave.”

“More, a lot more, is going down in that house, that run-down rubble-filled house with its weed-patch backyard and catbox that never gets emptied and animals walking on the kitchen table and garbage spilling over that no one ever takes out.”

“Him and the scanners, insidious and invisible, that watched him and recorded.  Everything he did.  Everything he uttered.”

“What does a scanner see? he asked himself.  I mean, really see?  Into the head?  Down into the heart?  Does a passive infrared scanner…see into me—into us—clearly or darkly?  I hope it does, he thought, see clearly, because I can’t any longer these days see into myself.  I see only murk.  Murk outside; murk inside.  I hope, for everyone’s sake, the scanners do better.  Because, he thought, if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we’ll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.”




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