The Dick in a Confused and Awkward Castle

Joe found her standing by the bowl. She had taken her wet ruined suit off; she stood naked, supporting herself on one arm, leaning and resting. “Jesus Christ,” she said to him when she realized he was there. “I don’t know what to do. My jersey suit is ruined. It’s wool.” She pointed; he turned to see the heap of sodden clothing. (The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick)

Reading Philip K. Dick makes me scared, not by his dark alternate futures, but the prose, the prose that are so godawful that they could infect me. And make me write like that too.

She said, speaking slowly and painstakingly, “Hair creates bear who removes spots in nakedness. Hiding, no hide, to be hung by a hook. The hook from God. Hair, hear, Hur,” Pills eating. Probably turpentine acid. They all met, decided dangerous most corrosive solvent to me forever.

That. No. Not that.

Plato’s Cave

Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderment of the eyes are of two kinds and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mid’s eye, quite as much as the bodily eye.

And he who remembers this when he sees anyone whose vision is perplexed and weak will not be too ready to laugh. He will first ask whether that the soul of man has come out of the brighter life and is unable to see because, unaccustomed to the dark or having turned from the darkness to the day, is dazzled by the excess of light.

And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other. Or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den. (From Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave)

Franz Kafka’s Ravachol

Born François Claudius Koenigstein, Ravachol was a French anarchist, twice found guilty of bombings and guillotined in 1892. His name was used as slang for troublemakers during Franz Kafka’s childhood and was applied to Kafka himself.

“It’s impossible to defend oneself in the absence of goodwill”, Karl said to himself, and he ceased to answer the head waiter, however painful to Therese this might be. He knew that whatever he could say would end up seeming very different from the way it had been intended and that the way they assessed the matter was critical, since it alone would determine the final judgement of good and evil. (166, Amerika, Kafka)

J.G. Ballard Uses Similes Like A Virus-riddled Robot

As much as I enjoy the concepts of science fiction writer J.D. Ballard, I find it hard to accept that he was, according to Martin Amis, the “most original English writer of the last century”. His characters and dialogue are wooden throughout his acclaimed The Drowned World:

The Colonel paused at the rail, looking down at the beautiful supple body with ungrudging approval. Noticing him, Beatrice pulled off her sunglasses, then tightened the loose straps of her bikini under her arm. Her eyes glinted quietly. “All right, you two, get on with it. I’m not a strip show.”

However it’s Ballard’s use of similes, on almost every page, constantly and thoughtlessly, comparing a thing to another, that lays the author bare:

...seemed to press down like a translucent pane on the leafy spread, a thousand motes of light spitting like diamonds. (76)

…planting immense dripping sundials like daggers in the fused sand. (77)

…its leaning headstones advancing to their crowns like a party of bathers. (77)

Hardman swung himself like an acrobat down the drain-pipe to the parapet below. (78)

Like a wounded water-buffalo, Hardman continued to wrestle in the mud. (79)

Which is to say J.G. Ballard uses similes like a virus-riddled robot.