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Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  93 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Widely recognized as one of the most imaginative writers of the 20th century, Philip K. Dick helped to shape science fiction into the popular genre it is today. His stories, renowned for their sophisticated philosophical themes and startling portrayals of simulated realities, inspired numerous television and film adaptations, including the 1982 cult classic Blade Runner.

Hardcover, 248 pages
Published June 1st 2016 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fr, ng, 2016-odyssey, biography
<<>> SHOULD have made GR's Best Awards nominees for Biography <<>>

Dick's origin story is grippingly tragic. The loss of his twin Jane to neglect, his near death, and the mental instability of both his parents are specters. The ghosts of his psyche echoing through his stories. Arnold breaks down the repeated story elements and analyzes them in the context of Dick's life via interviews and diary entries.

I feel terrible. His writing is a series of psychic screams. What does it make me to take pleas
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Arnold's subject is inherently interesting and this book is at its best when he simply sticks to the script: collating Dick's notes, letters, anecdotes from friends, etc. He's not giving us anything new, really, but it's nice to have a tidy presentation--a Cliff's Notes version of Sutin's and Rickman's more expansive biographies. As soon as Arnold attempts any sort of "analysis," however, his limitations as a reader and thinker come powerfully to the fore. Setting aside the speculative psych eva ...more
Brian Clegg
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Although a huge fan of science fiction, I've never been overly fond of the New Wave authors of the 1960s. Their ideas were remarkable - but their stories tended to be relentlessly bleak and unrewarding - a bit like post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd without the wonderful music. And there's no better example than Philip K. Dick. (It's Kindred, since you ask.) The sheer inventiveness of Dick's stories come through in the number of 'adaptations' of his work, from Blade Runner (taken from Do Androids Dream ...more
Steve Wiggins
May 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this one, even though I've read limited work by Philip K. Dick. Part biography, part analysis, this book takes seriously the religious experiences of one of the most highly regarded science fiction writers of last century. The clarity of the writing and the interest of the subject make a winning combination. I highly recommend this one. For further remarks, if interested, please see my blog post on the book: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. ...more
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Science fiction author Philip K. Dick is remembered as an author whose books were innovative and creative and often had multiple layers of reality within the story and the reader was never quite certain which 'reality' was the 'proper' timeline. His books were the basis for movies such as Blade Runner and Total Recall and The Minority Report, among others. He is also remembered as a man with severe psychiatric and paranoia issues. Kyle Arnold's biography, The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, ex ...more
Alex Sarll
Well, I knew PKD was bonkers, but I had no idea he was this bonkers. And bear in mind I already knew about the bit where he burgled himself (for once, a real false flag operation! Nobody tell the Internet, it’ll only encourage them) and the mystical communion with a pink light. What I didn’t know about was how messed up he was long before he got into drugs, and not surprising given his early life. Dick was one of twins, his sister dying very young and he nearly following her. The circumstances o ...more
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fans of PKD, who don’t have the energy to lug around his 900 page “Exegesis”- this bb tome is for you. It’s an ultra compressed biography slash psychoanalytic discussion of his life. From his childhood traumas through his chronic paranoia, delusions, and spiritual hallucinations, we see a side of Dick that really puts his writing into perspective. (Honestly, until reading Scanner Darkly, I didn’t realize how much his “science fiction” was based on his reality...)
4.5 stars because it would have
Human Being
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding!!! This is my second bio on Philip K. Dick that I have recently read with the first being Sutin's Divine Invasions. I faulted Sutin's work for crap psychoanalysis babel from someone who is not trained in that field but nevertheless filled his book with loads of inappropriate analysis and conclusions.
Not here, not in this work can this charge be made because Mr Kyle Arnold is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at a Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. It is a first
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
THE DIVINE MADNESS OF PHILIP K. DICK by Kyle Arnold is not a light read. Mr. Arnold chronicles Mr. Dick's descent into madness and most notably the divine madness he experienced during February and March of 1971. For those of you who are wondering who Philip Dick is and why is this important? Mr. Dick wrote some of the seminal sci-fi books of the 1970's era including my favorite "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" which was later made in to my favorite movie BLADERUNNER.

Interestingly enough,
J Earl
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick by Kyle Arnold is that often frustrating but usually enlightening type of psychological biography. Frustrating because there are always questions about interpreting a person's life from such a standpoint and enlightening because the places where the explanations click can make the subjects actions (in this case, his writing) so much more meaningful. This biography accomplished both of those things.

It seems that so much of what is analyzed here is based on Dic
Wes Benchoff
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Divine Madness presents a clear and well researched account of one very contentious point in Dick's life as well as many of the central themes contained in his literature. Arnold takes an interesting approach of trying to recreate PkD's inner psychological makeup rather than dryly listing facts, and the combined focus on this and Dick's infamous religious experiences pays off in very interesting ways. Highly recommended to fans of PKD as it will bring new light to his life and work.

Fair war
Jun 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
How could I resist this book at the library? If you know much about me at all, you should know that I love Philip K. Dick. In this, like in many other things, I blame my father, who used to include quoted messages from Valis in his letters to me when I was in college. PKD's books deeply affect my brain, so while I have been interested in reading Dick's Exegesis for some time, I've also been vaguely anxious about doing so. This book seemed like a good middle ground -- someone to process/filter Di ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is clearly well researched and a very interesting read but I found the quality of writing really distracting. Lots of typos, unnecessary repetition ('as previously said' passages feature far too frequently!) and some verbal ticks (how many times can things be equivocal?!?) suggest that this needed some much more thorough, ruthless editing.
Margaret Sankey
Nov 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Arnold takes a biographical swing at interpreting Dick's work--analyzing the ways in which is extremely stunted childhood, starvation death of his twin sister, middle aged psychic break and dysfunctional relationships with six wives filtered into his work.
Lynnee Argabright
I'll preface my rating by saying I don't care for philosophy at all. Pages 41-169 were about philosophic and religious theories, which, even if very closely relevant, to me felt radical and long-winded. The rest of this 217 page book were pretty engrossing, as they covered possible psychological and psychiatric perspectives on Dick's most traumatic moments. I liked how occasionally the plot of Dick's stories were brought up to show similar themes with the author's autobiographical realities. Ove ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
For my Halloween gift this year, my husband gave me this; an odd choice, I thought, as a don't really read biographies, and while I like Philip K. Dick, he's not an all-time fav or anything. Yet, Brian Clegg (a British science writer whose blog Tone reads religiously *snert,* see what I did there?) had liked it a lot and evidently Tone's gotten me several books in the past that Mr. Clegg recommended. Who knew? It was utterly fascinating -- lucidly written (surprising given the subject matter) an ...more
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A psychological biography of the renowned Sci-fi author that tries to make sense of a purported mystical experience Dick received in the last decade of his life. This was a very interesting look at a very sad life. I have a much deeper appreciation for Dick. I hope he found the rest he so desperately sought.
Brian Rothbart
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Wow, what a tough life Philip K. Dick had. This book is more of a psychoanalysis of Dick and less of a biography. It has its interesting parts, but it is very slow going if you aren't fascinated by psychology. That is not to say it is a bad book and I would recommend to those that like the works of Dick and/or the study of psychoanalysis.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Oh my, Philip K. Dick certainly had problems. This book was not what I expected. I wanted more personal versus more clinical. I felt like I was studying for my psychology exam in college rather than reading for enjoyment.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Worth a read to get another perspective on the events of 2-3-74. Can be tedious at points but tries to be very thorough in what this author is trying to say about PKDs past and how it effected him as an adult and in the years before he died.
Jess Flarity
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent analysis of Philip K. Dick, the individual, from a therapist's perspective.
Jessie B.
An interesting look at the life and mental states of Philip K. Dick
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this title via a Goodreads giveaway.

Kyle Arnold is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry who has brought his expertise to bear on the life story of Philip K. Dick. Arnold synthesizes the several published biographies of Dick to pull out the most significant psychological themes of his life. Arnold then moves on to use these perspectives to analyze two of the best known incidents in Dick's life: the burglary of his home in San Rafael, and his mystical/sp
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I got this book for Christmas from James for our book club. Somehow we both expected something a bit different to what it was. The book appears to be Arnold's published dissertation and it goes through to reveal aspects of Dick's psyche that are intriguing. I guess I was expecting a deeper insight into Dick's creative process but it seems that it was drug induced or indeed enhanced. I did learn that Dick was a womaniser and had children from multiple marriages and that his womanising behaviour c ...more
James Edwards
Jan 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I've enjoyed a number of Dick's stories, but I wouldn't call myself a huge fan, and so I read this without a stake in the conclusion; I was more interested in the idea that madness and creativity can be linked. The author is a qualified, professional psychologist as well, so this promised to be a fairly rigorous examination of the topic.

Disappointingly to me, the book read much more like pop-psychology than clinical psychology. There are a number of fairly tenuous links made between his writing
Jun 11, 2016 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. I found the first sections of the book (about Dick's traumatic formative years) to be absolutely fascinating, but the portions which delved into interpreting his delusions were still interesting but ultimately sort of inconclusive. It's really good for what it is, but to be honest I found myself skimming the last 3rd or so (mostly because once his early trauma was established, each section of the book was just sort of repeating "he had abandonment issues and took a lot of amphetamin ...more
Chris Craddock
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book by a shrink about prolific Science Fiction author Philip K. Dick. Sympathetic analysis of Dick's religious visions experienced by him in the 70s. Through a Scanner, Darkly, but as the recently departed Leonard Cohen said, the cracks let in the light. Recommended for serious PKD fans, which is redundant because if they weren't serious, how could they be his fans? Also recommended for fans of The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and other codex unearthed at Nag Hammadi.
Those who have read many of Philip K. Dick's books may appreciate the insights in Arnold's book, but those who have only read a few may find their interest in reading more of his work piqued by this book. The book consists of a series of theories on the unusual happenings in Dick's life. At times the material is redundant, but overall it was an interesting read. (I received this in a goodreads giveaway.)
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was not for me.

I expected a standard biography and got a psychological treatise using biographical materials (letters, interviews ...).

There were a few interesting fact and opinions (i.e. the reasons for the visions) but it was not what I wanted and also the repetition of certain facts made for a tedious read.

Frederick Gault
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
To make this long story short; Philip K. Dick was barking mad, batshit crazy not to mention a drug addict and a liar. One can commend the author for trying to make sense of Dick, because after all he did write a lot of great Science Fiction, but in the end Philip K. Dick was beset with bad wiring.
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