Review: Remembering Firebright By Tessa Dick (2009)

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It must be hard to write a memoir. I’ve never written one myself and what writing I’ve done has all been fiction. I repeatedly noticed that Ms. Dick would start down a narrative/memory path and then get far ahead of where she intends and then backtracks. This structure didn’t bother me because I have some familiarity with the events but someone who doesn’t might find it hard to follow.

In fiction you trust the reader to remember the details of the narrative later. It appears that Ms. Dick doesn’t trust the reader to recall and there are repetitions of events and explanations in this structure which leads to an absolutely clear discussion that can repeat itself. The memoir felt somewhat like you were having a conversation with Ms. Dick which suits the material that she covered in the book.

One of my favorite parts is the discussion of the infamous abscessed tooth/fish
necklace/pink beam experience at the beginning of Chapter Four which slightly changes the events as I knew them but they still retain the essence. That event has always fascinated me and to read a slightly different version makes me wonder what exactly happened. For example, Ms. Dick writes that the necklace didn’t cause the anamnesis but a piece of pink glass in their window with the sun shining through and the events remembered weren’t the events of Roman times but events that happened in Vancouver that I’d never read about.

The memoir has a structure more like put together a puzzle or creating a painting than a linear narrative and I think it suits the events that happened. Ms. Dick would describe an event fully chronologically even if it overlapped another event so that the reader has a better understanding of what happened and what she has put together in hindsight.

The book has parts which wander off the topic like the discussion of the movies made from Dick’s works but the discussion of the adaptation of A Scanner Darkly is fascinating because Ms. Dick helped work on the novel with him. Philip K. Dick would explain to her his intentions with that novel and all the novels after it so that she has an excellent understanding of Philip K. Dick’s purpose in writing the books.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in this period in Philip K. Dick’s life. The memoir provides a second viewpoint on events that Philip K. Dick wrote about, a viewpoint of someone who was there to witness the events.

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One thought on “Review: Remembering Firebright By Tessa Dick (2009)

  1. I agree! I got the book right when it came out and while you can (but don’t have to) argue about the literary quality it has (at least) a high value to any PKD-enthusiast (and I wouldn’t expect anybody else here).
    It gives some insights and those different (from Phil’s) views from a person that was THERE when it all happened that are just very interesting… and while you might argue that Tessa’s views/expressions are somewhat… subjective, well, I guess if we look at Phil’s side of the story only that’s at least as subjective – with a good deal of story telling added.
    Anyway, I don’t understand why I have seen so little about this book… or maybe I do.

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