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Humpty Dumpty in Oakland

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  781 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
The first US paperback edition of this classic Philip K. Dick novel

Set in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1950s, Humpty Dumpty in Oakland is a tragicomedy of misunderstandings among used car dealers and real-estate salesmen: the small-time, struggling individuals for whom Philip K. Dick always reserved his greatest sympathy.

Jim Fergesson, an elderly garage owner wit
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by Tor Books (first published 1986)
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Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writing in the 1950s, did Philip K. Dick really anticipate the Gregorian chant music could be popular? Yes he did.

I’ve said it before, unfortunately, I will likely say it again, why, why, why was he not more popular in his own time?

“You nothing but ditch water walking around on two feet.”


A reader, a PKD fan, cannot read Humpty Dumpty in Oakland without comparing this work to Confessions of a Crap Artist, his 1975 non-science fiction publication, originally written in 1959. Like Confession
Ben Loory
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i tend to distrust these non-sci-fi pkd books, if only because everyone acts like they legitimize him as a writer. as though he needed to be legitimized. fuck you. but this book really is wonderful. and it draws attention to what have always been some of his strongest points: the absolute emotional reality of his down and out characters, and the absolute insanity of all the worlds they live in.

i cried pretty much non-stop for the last third of this book. it might be one of my favorite books yet.
Rebecca McNutt
I really loved this odd little book for the most part, it has a grounding in both history and fantasy, the 1950s nostalgia is incredible, and the characters are very well-written. :)
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, general-fiction
Although Humpty Dumpty in Oakland isn't one of PKD's science fiction novels, it has enough of the author's signature paranoia that I almost didn't notice. However, I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as his other books. Usually I like the craziness that the paranoia causes, but this time I was just annoyed with the two main characters and wanted to slap them around until they noticed reality.
I wrote a scathing review of this on my iPod when I was 94 pages in— it turns out, you can't judge a PKD book by the first 94 pages.

Here is that review:

(view spoiler)
Christopher Roberts
I do not like giving one star reviews and I really do not like giving one star reviews to authors whose work I generally love but in this case I feel I must.

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland was one of Dick's realistic fiction novels, most of which went unpublished in his lifetime. Posthumously published novels by famous authors should always be a warning to readers. When Dick tried to publish this novel it was dubbed "incoherent" by the publisher and it really isn't hard to see why. Like all of Dick's
HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND. (1986). Philip K. Dick. ***.
This is a non-science fiction novel by Dick that he wrote in 1960. His publisher refused to publish it, and it was not published until 1986 – after his death – in the UK. It has recently been published in this country. It tells the story of two men who both have reached a point in their lives where they want to be somebody else – somebody more than they are now. Jim Fergesson, the owner of an auto garage, has encountered some health problems
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
my first non-science fiction PKD read and I'm fairly impressed. This is a tragicomedy that follows the pathetic business lives and personal relationships (largely with their always critical wives who own some pathetic themselves).

I was at once reminded of Arthur Miller's Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman and enjoyed how the wishful thinking of the characters would bring their absurd fantasies into their own reality
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover
I don’t always like what PKD writes about. But I like how he tells it. I’ve been reading his non-scifi books lately, this is the fifth of nine that were eventually published posthumously (there are apparently others, but PKD seemed to have the odd habit of losing manuscripts.)

Humpty Dumpty was the last of his effort at nonfiction. Written in 1959, just before he got going with "The Man in The High Castle", which won him a Hugo. I guess after that one, he decided to stick with scifi.

Of the few n
Honestly, if the cars in this novel were flying or hovering cars and the year was 2060 instead of 1960 this novel would be indistinguishable from a lot of PKD's science fiction. It is the same sort of thing, which is why I don't understand some of the negative reviews on GoodReads by PKD fans (but I am also baffled by the guy who said he was crying for the last third of the book--that makes so little sense I am concerned for him).

The "nothing happens" complaint is also very peculiar: I assume th
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humpty Dumpty in Oakland (Hardcover)
by Philip K. Dick

This reads like a Jim Thompson Black Lizard novel crossed with something by Charlie Bukowski. The main characters are so hapless (one is a young hopeless schmuck going nowhere fast while the other is an elderly hopeless schmuck who thinks he's doing very well), On the other hand, it lacks the straightforward criminal plot line of a book like The Grifters or The Killer Inside Me. The young guy takes a stab at committing a crime, but hasn't th
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
It's no secret that Dick longed to escape the genre-fiction straight -jacket and bask in the respect and success of being a literary writer. Humpty Dumpty in Oakland is part of a series of non-science fiction novels he wrote during the late '50s through to 1960, and while reading it it's easy to see why mainstream success alluded him.

First, the good: the book isn't bad, per se. It's written to the same prose-standard as any other Dick work, and passes easily enough. Which brings us to the bad: i
Cymru Roberts
It's a testament to Dick's writing powers that a story about a crotchety old man and a total bullshitter was never boring. It is also interesting to read a non-science fiction book by one of the genre's masters. You can see the types of everyday things that inspired him to stretch his imagination. The characters are real despicable people, but the book is short enough and contains enough introspection to make it readable and even enjoyable.

The California setting evoked Raymond Chandler, the neur
Is this an amazing book or if I am just a huge Oakland history nerd? Probably the latter. Still I think this book is fascinating! It seems to map out this shift from a industrial based economy of the 50s to a service based economy in the 60s through these strange dark allegorical characters. There's also a lot about race relations. This isn't Philip K Dick's best book but if you like Dick and like Oakland YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK!
George Kouros
Nice tragicomic, not SF novel, from the SF guru. Once you get used to the racial characterizations from the era, you take a peek at the existential drama of "ditch water walking around on two feet" who are "hiding from life" or "looking at life through a tiny hole" in a hostile environment trying to make ends meet with the help of chemical stimulants.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit, p-k-dick
A great read for PKD fans. It does look and read like an early novel, but most ingredients for his later works are here - the no-good hero, the wife, the hunting world conspiring against him, the bitter-sweet ending... It's actually very interesting to see how Dick was experimenting with his ideas (even the same characters) during his early works.
DNF with Jack Mack
A slog. I can see why it went unpublished. You've read bits of this one sprinkled in all the rest.
My guess is Phil tried really hard to succeed as a straight writer (early on) and was probably disappointed with this--or its lack of publication.
J de Salvo
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dick's best, so far. Who gnows what else his wife will put out? More controlled than "Voices From the Street". A one man proletariat.
Very underrated book. For a writer known for his Sci-fi, this early novel shows the depth and talent of a well rounded author. Set in Oakland, CA circa 1960, we follow the struggles of two men, an aging auto mechanic and a young used car salesman, both wanting to be respected. The young car salesman really surprised me in this story, he shows that doing the right thing, though never easy, must win out in the end and he puts himself in danger to protect his elderly friend who hasn't been that goo ...more
Lonely Shikari
Зацепила началом, чуть сдав ближе к концовке. Филигранно выписанные персонажи, с живыми, меняющимися характерами. Ну и опять же - Калифорния, малый бизнес, немного расизма, драматичная развязка. Единственное, что угнетает, как, в общем, и в большинстве реалистических романов Дика, - ни одному из героев не хочется сочувствовать.
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Philip K. Dick minus the science fiction. Something new for me. An exploration in the psyche of small business owners. Perception vs. Reality. Paranoia. Also, some race, class, and gender issues. This is probably the first time I've seen Dick approach female characters in this way - more 3-D, more involved. The ending was weird - no idea what that meant.
Ola Mamcarz
I love his books, but I just couldn't give more than 2 stars for this one. Definitely not his best work.
Jack Stovold
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Philip K. Dick Project

Entry #20 - Humpty Dumpty in Oakland (Written Oct. 1960, published posthumously Oct, 1986)

Well, here it is, the last of Dick’s mainstream novels, and another never published in Dick’s lifetime. This is an odd one, especially coming after the one-two punch of Confessions of a Crap Artist and The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike. This book is widely thought to be a reworking of the Dick’s first draft of A Time For George Stavros, which Dick could never get his liter
Karl Kindt
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
And so ends my reading of PKD's fiction. I have read it all now. This book is a fitting ending to my journey. It has all the things one can love about PKD without any sf in it. As with all the non-sf by him, it is better than at least half of his sf. He was right. I am convinced he was right, his publishers were wrong, and most of his readers are wrong. He wrote better realistic fiction than he did sf on a regular basis. I still like his sf better, at least his really good sf, but if I have to c ...more
May 21, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was an audiobook for my commutes. I've read other Philip K. Dick and I keep wanting to like him. I struggle to like his work, but I picked this up to try again. I had mixed feelings towards this book. It came across as uneven, weakly character driven, and meandering, honestly very much like the chief protagonist.

I didn't like many of the characters. There were a few secondary characters that were engaging, but generally speaking the folks driving the plot along were difficult to read. I thi
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mainstream fiction novel written and set in 1950s Oakland, California. One of the book's main characters, Jim Fergesson, is similar to the self-reliant businessman characters that Philip K. Dick used in several of his other novels ( based more or less on Dick's boss and surrogate father figure from the days when he worked in a record shop). But here, the character is old and worn down, trying to assess whether his years of hard work amounted to anything. Al Miller, the second main character, i ...more
Scott Holstad
I feel like a total traitor, because I got through the first six chapters -- to page 94 -- and finally gave up. Philip K. Dick is one of my two favorite writers, the other being Charles Bukowski. I've ALWAYS loved his books, even if some are imperfect. This one, though, was simply dull.

It's a well known fact that Dick hated being considered a sci fi hack and wanted to be considered a mainstream novelist. He wrote three mainstream novels, none of which were ever considered good enough to be publi
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chi riesce a superare la monotonia della vita quotidiana.
Recensione pubblicata su Cronache di Betelgeuse

La paranoia è il tratto saliente del libro, in grado di condizionare la vita di molte persone. La storia è così lineare che però non si capisce da dove possa scaturire questa ricerca spasmodica del sotterfugio e delle attività clandestine, visto che non c’è nessun indizio che faccia pensare a qualche comportamento losco.

Il libro è raccontato sotto diversi punti di vista, che corrispondono ai due personaggi principali della vicenda. Tutto ruota attor
A book by one of my most favorite authors which is set in Oakland and mentions a number of places I know (even Piedmont)? How could I NOT read this? This isn't science fiction, just fiction that could easily be non-fiction. Normally I don't enjoy that kind of thing, and I wouldn't have liked this if it wasn't Philip K. Dick and set in Oakland. Dick's characters are the same style here as his science fiction, just slightly less psychotic because in this book there actually isn't a weird uber-real ...more
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Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Di ...more
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