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I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,067 ratings  ·  173 reviews
From the master chronicler of psychological extremes, an unforgettable portrait of the “Shakespeare of science fiction” whose work has influenced millions

For his many devoted readers, Philip K. Dick is not only one of the “most valiant psychological explorers of the 20th century” (The New York Times) but a source of divine revelation. Dick, whose work inspired such films a
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 3rd 2004 by Metropolitan Books (first published December 1st 1993)
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4.03  · 
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 ·  2,067 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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Prophecies of the Non-Organization Man

On an early Spring camping trip to Seeley Lake in Montana about twenty years ago, I took my canoe out before the morning mist had cleared. The sun was bright above me but visibility was only about ten yards at water level. Out of the still-calm water just ahead of the boat, a fish leaped. Before the fish had hit the water again, a bald eagle swept in and attacked it with both talons. But as the eagle struggled to rise with the fish, in through the fog dived
I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick: Reality is Stranger than Fiction
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Anyone familiar with the SF novels of Philip K. Dick and the many films inspired by his works knows that he was one strange and visionary guy. Certainly the SF genre is filled with works of bizarre worlds, aliens, characters, and slippery reality. But it’s generally accepted by authors and readers alike that these fictional creations are just that — works
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This biography of writer Philip K. Dick imagines that his body of work is essentially one extended AUTObiography. This in itself would not be an interesting claim (eg, who would ever want to read a biography of John Updike?), but Dick's work consists of some of the most tripped-out science fiction ever written. The project is elegantly executed, in an extraordinary simulation of Dick's own style, and surely based on at least some facts. Reading it is an unusually thought-provoking experience.
Jun 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
In a comment on the respective authors of biographies of the poet Arthur Rimbaud, Harper’s book reviewer Wyatt Mason writes, “Whereas Robb reads plausible facts and quietly fills them out with fiction, Steinmetz reads fiction as a loud disclosure of fact.” In I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, Emmanuel Carrere employs both of the biographical techniques Mason describes, using Dick’s biography to interpret his fiction and his fiction to fill in the gaps in h ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great attempt to elucidate the source of Dick's writings from his experiences and quirky personality. That fine line between madness and genius becomes clearer. Though tagged as one whose imagination was fueled by hallucinogens, his one LSD trip in 1964 was a bad one and never repeated. His abuse of amphetamines also does little to account for his remarkable imagination, but only of his ability to complete many of his novels in a few weeks. His paranoia and obsessions are made comprehensible, an ...more
cowgirl  sushi
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I’ve had an ongoing discussion with a writer friend of mine as to whether some kind of madness is a necessary ingredient to creativity. She maintains that mental illness gets in the way of creative endeavors and in fact, good writing can only happen when those mental disorders are controlled and swept to the side. I maintain that yes, mental illness needs to be treated, but I believe it has an intimate connection to the creative process. No, you don’t have to be crazy to be a writer, butI think ...more
Scott Holstad
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow! What can you say about Philip K. Dick and this biography? I mean, I knew Dick was a paranoid, but I had no idea to what degree he was. Stunning. I'm surprised he didn't die from a stroke much earlier in his short life. This book also confirmed for me that many of Dick's books were written in a drug addled state, although he only took LSD once -- everything else was uppers, for the most part. It's how he churned out his novels so fast.

It seemed to me that Dick had a miserable, tortured life,
Lis Carey
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
This is in no sense a scholarly work—no footnotes, no bibliography, not even a "further reading" list. Emmaneul Carrère is an unabashed fan of Philip K. Dick who, having read everything there was to read, still wanted to know more about how Dick's mind worked. He pursued this quest through much of Dick's unpublished material and apparently interviews with those who knew him. (I say "apparently" because the lack of footnotes, while adding to readability, does detract from complete clarity about s ...more
Ian Mathers
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I may be cheating by tagging this as nonfiction, but I think at worst you could call this a speculative biography. It's probably the best one of PKD I can reasonably expect to read, one that made me sympathize with and condemn the man all over again, one that reminded me of the very real and enduring power of his work while if anything highlighting his flaws as a writer. Generally with Dick I can flip from paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, word to word between thinking he was a geniu ...more
Ike Sharpless
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
PKD was one of my favorite authors throughout high school, and it was fascinating to read this biography almost a decade later and to realize that one of the reasons I may have liked him so much is may latently possess some of the same neuroses that are in full swing for Dick.
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Carrère does a good job capturing the personality of Phil Dick. He illustrates why people who knew him often found him so fascinating, and why readers still do decades after his death. The author uses Dick's novels to fill in gaps in his biography, and I'm generally okay with that, since much of Dick's wrting appears to be slightly fictionalized versions of people and experiences from his own life.

However, the technique gets tedious when it's used for more than filling in gaps. The section on t
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Nixon at least was lucky in a way: he was forced to hand over his tapes, others listened to them, and then he got turned out of his bunker. No one is going to do you that favor. You're going to be able to go on listening to yourself, disagreeing with yourself, and telling yourself you're right until the day you die, and no one is going to stop you."

RATING DOES NOT APPLY IF YOU HAVE NOT READ MANY OF DICK'S MAJOR WORKS. Spoilers of every single one of them in addition to many details or intimatio
James Cullender
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is one of the best Literary Biographies I have ever read. Yes, I said Literary Biography because, despite what detractors say this pretty much is a Philip K. Dick biography even if it isn't written in scholarly manner. Of course it would have better if it had been properly sourced, had footnotes, etc. but I wonder, of that is the criteria for "good" biography, how one about most subjects could even be written. Unless the subject was a U.S. President like Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson-who ...more
Ray Dunsmore
Jun 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
A compelling biography of Philip K. Dick, science fiction's most creative storyteller. Dick was plagued with mental illness throughout his life, most likely exacerbated by the amphetamines he took to write his books quickly and several periods of living amongst the intelligentsia and the burnouts of southern California, and his sanity slowly metamorphosed into something far stranger. He would have prescient dreams where he heard words of ancient Greek he'd never known; and once accurately diagno ...more
Oct 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I've read a pile of PKD books during the last twenty years and found this to be interesting. This tied in what was happening in his life and the parallels with the books he was writing. This book would mean alot lot less to me if I hadn't read the books. I became less interested in the end as PKD went really over the deepend during the Ubik/Valis Divine Invasion years.

The book was enjoyable and I felt that Carrere had an understanding and a appreciation of PKD. There are also a number of books
The Literary Chick
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
As biographies go, this one is expertly written. The author delves deeply into Dick's life and works, and their intertwining. A thorough biography which remains balanced and objective while immensely readable, even for non-'Dickheads'.
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Too indulgent for Dick fans. Reads more like fiction, a bit flowery. It felt like a fan trying to write his childhood hero, filling it up with fantastic anecdotes every page, making it hard to view Dick as a person, a writer but more of an idealized (mis)adventure of a novelist.
I enjoyed this though i felt it could have done with more about PKD rather than his novels, all the same it was enjoyable.
Daniel Carlin
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Best biography I've ever read.
Will Dean
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it

Biographies almost always try to fit (and in some cases, jam) the messiness of a human life into the more palpable construct of a narrative, which isn't necessarily a bad thing since that's how we catalog our own time: with a story of how and why we are the way we are. But the best biographies give the reader a sense that their constructed narrative is very close to the subject's own self-conception, or just so true-seeming that you can imagine the subject agreeing with it despite it's actual va
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I Am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, Emanuel Carrere, Picador, 2004

This book is not just a biography of Philip K. Dick, famous science fiction writer; the movies Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report are based on his stories. It is also an attempt to find out what made him tick, to get inside his mind. And that is a strange place to be.

Dick was born in 1928, near Berkeley, California, half of a set of twins. Evidently, his mother knew little or nothing
Tom Lichtenberg
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I've had a lifelong habit of falling in love with writers and then reading everything they've written that I can find as quickly as I can. Decades ago I did this with Philip K. Dick, among others. At that time - the early 1970's - it was no small feat to find his books. Most were not only out of print but incredibly scarce as well. I was working in bookstores during those years and even from that vantage point coming across any one of his books, especially an obscure one like 'Galactic Pot Heale ...more
Fantasy Literature
4 stars from Stuart, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE

Disclaimer: just so you know, some of the books we review are received free from publishers

Anyone familiar with the SF novels of Philip K. Dick and the many films inspired by his works knows that he was one strange and visionary guy. Certainly the SF genre is filled with works of bizarre worlds, aliens, characters, and slippery reality. But it’s generally accepted by authors and readers alike that these fictional creations are just t
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
In brief, this is a book for Dickheads only. The writer seems to have achieved what his title states in presenting a view of the mindset of Phillip K. Dick, but truly, who can really say how accurate his conclusions really are? Accepting the premise that all, or at least most of, Dick's writings were fictionalized accounts of events in his own life and mind, Carrere's book would seem to present a reasonable guess as to what the hell was going on in Dick's head. Having written from this perspecti ...more
Colin O'Shea
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
-"Immersive" -

The style he uses to write does give you the impression you've delved into the mind of the man himself with all its myriad conspiratorial musings and speculations that he intertwined in his fiction. It details the parallels he saw in hindsight between his own stories and his life, believing them to be a kind of precognition themselves for which he was only the vessel. The chapters on VALIS are intriguing considering that the book itself is seen to be basically autobiographical, wh
M.R. Dowsing
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
I've only read one Dick book (The Man In The High Castle) but decided to give this a go as it was pressed on me with a strong recommendation by someone I know. It's a well-written and interesting book, despite the fact that in some ways Dick's life was not terribly interesting (he didn't go out much). He's an intriguing character though, and seems to have spent many years attempting to be the most paranoid man in America.
I thought the author assumed a little too much authority as to what was go
Joe Cloyd
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I would have given Emmanuel Carrère's "I Am Alive and You Are Dead" four stars, but it wasn't quite what I expected. I came to Carrère's book, thinking that it was a traditional biography but instead found that it was crafted more like a work of fiction, where Dick is of course the main character. "I Am Alive..." is a well written book, but one has to wonder how much liberty Carrère has taken with the "truth" of Philip's life. I cannot say for sure, because I have only read a handful of Dick's s ...more
A fantastic approach to biography, using PKD's own fiction to inform and dramatise the story of his life. This was an absolute delight to read, bringing warm memories of the Dick books I've read (and wonderful insights into their inception), sending me back to read yet again my well-thumbed copies of Scanner, High Castle, and the early short story collections, and giving me a few titles to add to my must-read list.
I admit to mixed feelings regarding the man himself: he lived with such selfish s
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read PKD when I was young, too young to have consumed any recreational drugs or to have had any religious epiphanies. But as an anxious, information-addicted kid, I grokked PKD's obsessions. Of course someone could have gnostic glimpses of a reality deeper than our own and be forced to spend their entire life interpreting it. The brains of smart people do weird fucking things. Emannuel Carrere has captured this driving obsession in PKD's life and work, and not only does he talk about it with t ...more
Apr 12, 2010 rated it liked it
As the author states himself in the preface, this is a very different kind of book. It is indeed a biography, but not written from the viewpoint of others. Instead, the author tries to take us into Philip K. Dick's head, showing us the world from his perspective.

Because of this, I found this a very difficult book to read. However, it was also difficult to put down. Both interesting and fascinating, it reads like a hazy, half-remembered dream, in which you are not quite certain what is real and w
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Emmanuel Carrère is a French author, screenwriter, and director. He is the son of Louis Carrère d'Encausse and French historian Hélène Carrère d'Encausse.

Carrère studied at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (better known as Sciences Po). Much of his writing, both fiction and nonfiction, centers around the primary themes of the interrogation of identity, the development of illusion, and the
“Sono convinto che subito dopo la morte finalmente ci apparirà la Realtà. Le carte saranno finalmente scoperte, la partita sarà terminata, e vedremo chiaramente tutto ciò che abbiamo solo sospettato o intravisto come in uno specchio, in modo oscuro. È quello che dice san Paolo. Quello che dice il Bardo Thödol. Quello che dice Winnie-the-Pooh: ci incontreremo di nuovo in un'altra parte della foresta, dove un bambino e il suo orsacchiotto giocheranno insieme per sempre. Io ci credo.” 0 likes
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