1959 (1979 reprint)
My friend Jeff literally gasped when I told him I was reading Philip K. Dick for the first time. He of course has been a fan for years, and quickly rattled off a list of must-reads in his bibliography, including a biography which will give some context.
Dick novels are hard to find used here–the Public Library has a few, and the Book Den has at most one at any time. This is not a reason for me not reading earlier, just a fact. There’s something groovy, then, in picking up this Penguin UK paperback, a thin novel–it feels like a coffee break.
Time Out of Joint is an early work, and tells the story of Rangle Gumm, a 40-something layabout who starts to suspect that his small-town suburban reality is not what it all seems. Objects disappear in front of him, leaving only the object’s name on a scrap of paper. His young cousin finds old magazines and phonebooks that don’t correspond to the era. The cousin also builds a crystal radio and Ragle begins to hear pilots passing overhead, talking about him. And why does he keep winning his local paper’s mail-in quiz?
The publication date was 1959, and not only is Dick presaging all sorts of recent alt.reality movies like the Matrix and Truman Show, but part of what I liked about this novel is his depictions of life in late-50’s America. He understands the phony veneer of post-war suburbia around the same time Twilight Zone was doing the same. The early chapters are now a glimpse into how people thought and acted back then, just before Dick bends their reality. He gets the consumerism that we are still suffering from, the “reality” that America creates around itself to keep out the messy Real. Baudrillard would have a field day with the book; so would Zizek. I breezed through, and got a kick in the pants–fun stuff.
For a much more intelligent consideration of the novel, for those who have read it, check out The Four Levels of Reality in Time Out of Joint by Yves Potin.