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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jonathan Lethem on Philip K. Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth

Tomorrow, October 7, the Gotham Screen International Film Festival will open with the world premiere screening of Radio Free Albemuth, the new motion picture based on the posthumously published Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. Many thanks to Gabriel Mckee’s SFGospel blog for bringing this to our attention.

In an interview for The Library of America e-Newsletter in June 2009 Jonathan Lethem, the editor of LOA’s three Philip K. Dick volumes, addressed where Radio Free Albemuth fits among Philip K. Dick’s works:
Library of America: Some time over the next year a new movie, Radio Free Albemuth, starring Alanis Morissette, is due to be released. The movie is based on a novel Dick wrote before VALIS and originally entitled VALISystemA (it was published after his death as Radio Free Albemuth). The novel VALIS includes references to a science fiction movie “Valis,” which recapitulates the plotline of Radio Free Albemuth. Did Dick intend for all of these works to be intertwined? Can you help us sort the threads?

Jonathan Lethem: I’m not familiar with the movie project, apart from what you’ve heard, so I can’t predict how faithful or satisfying it might be for readers of VALIS or the other related works. The novel that the movie takes as its source, Radio Free Albemuth, is an odd duck in Dick’s shelf of published works in the sense that it was actually an earlier draft of the VALIS material, submitted for publication by Dick and then reworked so completely in the writing of VALIS that it appeared to his posthumous editors as a legitimate work of its own. It has champions—some who even prefer it to VALIS. I can’t agree, myself. It seems a fairly pedestrian and cautious feint at the material—readable, perhaps, but not essential. VALIS, meanwhile, is one of Dick’s great masterpieces, so I’m awfully glad that Radio Free Albemuth was written, if only to be rejected and rewritten.
Read the entire interview with Jonathan Lethem about Philip K. Dick: VALIS and Later Novels.

Related LOA works: The Philip K. Dick Collection (3-book boxed set)

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