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Friday, April 27, 2012

Ken Campbell on how RAW turned him on to Philip K. Dick

[Jesse Walker, still working on his book but back to work at "Reason" magazine, kindly passes on a cool find: The late Ken Campbell, the British theatre genius who mounted a stage production of "ILLUMINATUS!," once wrote a piece on how Robert Anton Wilson turned him on to PKD's Valis. Here is the piece. -- The Mgt.]

ENANTIODROMIA - I shall be using that word frequently in my next one-man show, Pigspurt. Enantiodromia - I shall be the fourth person to use it, ever, in the world. Heraclitus was the first, C G Jung was the second, Philip K Dick was the third, and I shall be the fourth. It means: sudden transformation into an opposite form or tendency; sudden shifting to the opposite pole of attitude, belief and emotion. So R L Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde is an enantiodromic classic - but Robert didn't know the word!

Actually I didn't find it in Heraclitus or Jung, I got it from Philip K Dick. In Pigspurt I shall be giving enantiodromic demonstrations of my own devising. My last show, Recollections of a Furtive Nudist, was also a tribute to the visionary Dick.

I have a love of conquering outlandish words. When I played Maurice in Heathcote Williams's AC/DC I spent a whole morning wrestling with the pronunciation of dimethoxyphenylathylamide. DI-METH-OXY-PHENY-LA-THYL-A-MIDE over and over again until I had the monster tripping off my tongue - and then in the afternoon the meaning: 'The pink spot in the urine of every schizophrenic.'

The director (Andrew Dallmeyer, Liverpool Playhouse, Studio, 1972) said the line had to be delivered at white heat - I can still do it: 'Dimethoxyphenylathylamide' - the pink spot in the urine of every schizophrenic!' (At white heat!)

Most older actors have their line - the line they say to themselves, or the wall, before they go on - their great line of some memory. The late Stuart Pearce had a good one. He'd say to the wall, or world, or self before launching off into the unknown of a first night: 'A knife in the back is not what we call a normal death, Carstairs!'

An actress of the Margate Theatre Royal (name escapes me) impressed me much with her line, obviously a line which she'd worked on and delivered brilliantly one time: 'It's useless, useless . . . as a leg.'

But before any first night, before I go on, I will declaim to wall, world, whatever: 'Dimethoxyphenylathylamide - the pink spot in the urine of every schizophrenic.' It's my line. I'm the best at it.

Last October I was attending the International Philip K Dick Celebration in Loughton. Heavy Americans had come. Lawrence Sutin, author of Divine Invasions - A Life of Philip K Dick; Gregg Rickman, To The High Castle - Philip K Dick: A Life; and Paul Williams, Only Apparently Real - The World of Philip K Dick.

Dick enthusiast though I was, I was daunted, yet wishing to shine in this company - (this is in the bar the night before) - I steered the conversation so I could casually say: 'Dimethoxyphenylathylamide - the pink spot in the urine of every schizophrenic.' American voice - was it Lawrence? Was it Gregg? Was it Paul? - I don't know. But the reply came certainly and easily: 'Dimethoxyphenylathylamide is found in the urine of everybody.' I was called. I offered: 'But I think you'll find that dimethoxyphenylathylamide is found in greater proportion in the urine of schizophrenics.' He said: 'It's not a study we've made. I thank you for the point.'

Wow! Boys. I'm only just in. A fringe Dick Head. Dick-dom, Dick-fandom, whatever you want to call it, it's like nothing else. You know how the Illuminati were a secret society inside Masonry - well the Dick Heads were a secret society inside science fiction.

There are two factions of Dick Head: the Pre '74s and the Post '74s. If you're Pre '74 you're into Solar Lottery, The World Jones Made and The Man in the High Castle; Martian Time Slip, Clans of the Alphane Moon and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

If you're Post '74 it maybe happened like this . . . you got given Valis (it was the most given Christmas present between ex and older hippies in 1982, and it wasn't like anything you'd read before).

I remember Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of the Illuminatus! trilogy, who used to stay with us sometimes until my wife objected to his using the washing machine for only one shirt. Anyway, late one night, in awed tones, he said: 'Have you read Valis?' He gave me my first copy. Literally mind-twisting, it's one of those books you wind up buying loads of copies of. Because you're either going to have to move on to new friends who have read it or force old friends to get into it.

The hero of Valis is Horselover Fat. (Philip in the Greek means admirer of the equestrian arts and Dick is the German for fat.) Horselover Fat spends much of his time writing his Exegesis - a theological term meaning a piece of writing that explains or interprets a portion of scripture: 'Fat believed that the information fired at him and progressively crammed into his head in successive waves had a holy origin and hence should be regarded as a form of scripture.'

The opening aphorism of Fat's Exegesis is: 'One Mind there is; but under it two principles contend.' A suggestion that the phenomenon of enantiodromia is of Divine Origin? A furthering of this enquiry is one of the main strands of Pigspurt.

On 2 March it will be 10 years since Philip K Dick died. I will be co-hosting a literary evening at the ICA alongside psychotherapist Ernesto Spinelli. Spinelli is a real fan. He's not only read all of Dick's books, he's currently re-reading them in chronological order. We'll take those present on a journey - a journey through the books, the life of the writer and into the science of fiction. Brian Aldiss, Fay Weldon and Geoff Ryman are some of the writers contributing, while bio-physicist Jack Cohen and mathematician Ian Stewart (Does God Play Dice?) come at it from a scientific viewpoint.

The evening will feature events including Desert Island Dicks, in which celebrated fans reveal their favourite eight books from his oeuvre, and a consideration of Dick's work in the light of recent scientific insights on parallel universes, the practical difficulties of infinity and the peculiar nature of time.



* Philip K Dick - The Other Side of Infinity, ICA, Monday 2 March, 7.30pm (071 930 3647). Pigspurt, written and performed by Ken Campbell, Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, 4-28 March, 8pm (081 748 3354).


Oz Fritz said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm in the middle of the Exegesis and enjoying it immensely, very thought provoking!

FCBertrandJr said...

Great post, Tom. Just the kind of thing that sometimes gets discussed in the best serconzine about Philip K. Dick, that being PKD Otaku.