Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly is one of those books you’re supposed to read in late high school/early college and it’s supposed to BLOW YOUR MIND. Somehow I never got around to it, though I remember reading Valis around age 14 for some reason. I don’t recall what I thought of it.
Well, I just finished A Scanner Darkly, this time in preparation for a class I’m teaching, and I have to say, while it didn’t blow my mind in the way that, say, Naked Lunch or House of Leaves or “In the Penal Colony” did when I was that impressionable age, it did actually move me, which is something that rarely happened when I was in my more-pretentious-than-thou phase. It’s a profoundly moving novel, even leaving aside the “Author’s Note,” which added was probably a wholly necessary element for Dick but which served almost no purpose for me.
I’ll have more to say about it later, probably as I teach it, but for now I remain sort of glad that I waited until now to read it. Because I think that 17-18-19-year-old me would have totally missed the point, probably would have been upset or frustrated by Dick for what I would have perceived as its sentimentality. I was that much of a cold bastard. I think A Scanner Darkly shows me, in some sort of unexpected ways, what growing as a reader can mean.