This book is arguably the best of Philip K. Dick's mainstream literary works. In my opinion, the other that is closest in quality is "Voices from the...moreThis book is arguably the best of Philip K. Dick's mainstream literary works. In my opinion, the other that is closest in quality is "Voices from the Street". Both novels present stories that flow satisfyingly from their initial concept without their plots becoming forced, a significant problem in PKD's other mainstream literary works.
I place both "The Man Whose Teeth..." and "Voices from the Street" above "Confessions of a Crap Artist", the only one of PKD's mainstream literary works to be published in his lifetime (also not including the VALIS trilogy). "Confessions" has a quirkiness that made it attractive to publishers at a time when they wouldn't touch the rest of his mainstream literary works. Though being distinguished by publication during the author's lifetime, I do not find the story to be as good as "...Teeth..." or "Voices..." nor do I find "Confessions" to be as well written as its previously unpublished siblings.
Like with all of PKD's mainstream works, "The Man Whose Teeth..." is the story of a creative man in his twenties who is not content with his job and has a disastrous love life. In this iteration of the PKD tale the hero is a commercial artist whose wife manipulates him into quiting his job so that she can go to work at the firm he leaves. While unemployed, the hero gets into a battle of wills with the local realtor. He uses his skills as a commercial artist to pull a prank that humiliates the realtor in front of the community.
A flaw that is difficult to take in this book, occurring in all or most of the mainstream books, is a dramatic presentation of domestic violence between a man and a woman. Another flaw is that Racial slurs of the time are bandied about in such a way that it is difficult to know how critical the author is of racism or if he is racist himself. An oddity is reoccurring discussions of the 'natural place' of men and women belonging within the workplace or the home respectively. The ideas might have been thought provoking or timely if they had been published when the books where written, but leave the contemporary reader interested in the book more as a historical document by which to see the development of Philip K. Dick as a writer than as a novel to be read upon its own merits. Finally, the conflicts are a bit underwhelming and petty in significance to the society they describe.
All of these observations are from a reviewer who really likes the book and encourages Philip K. Dick aficionados to give it a try if he or she is looking for the best of PKD's mainstream literary works. This book is extremely well written. The story leaves the reader more satisfied with the quality of the story and its presentation than with any of its mainstream siblings.
The mainstream novels boil down to a warning against attempting to fill the void in one's life with consumerism or career ambitions. Reading these books has led me to observe that the science fiction novels are about the same thing. The difference is in what PKD described as consumerism and ambition in the science fiction novels. PKD's genius was to make his tepid warning against consumerism fascinating by presenting consumerism as the method for monolithic corporations to use technologies that start as consumer products (androids, drugs, implanted memory, responsibility for military and police protection)to take over society and to run rough-shod over individuality and freedom.
The mainstream novels are interesting in their own way. Disastrous love relationships look the same in both the mainstream and science fiction iterations. The mainstream books probably would have been better if a publisher had taken an interest in them and given PKD appropriate advice for their improvement. If that had happened he might be remembered as a working-class John Updike.
As it is he was able to find his genius in science fiction, where he is one of he giants. It is the scale of the presentation of the same themes that made the mainstream novels underwhelming while the science fiction presentations are startling in their size and originality and make millions of us Philip K. Dick fans. (less)