Sunday, September 6, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 25.9 (Philip K. Dick)

The Man Who Japed
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Dick, Philip K.
The Man Who Japed

Another unread title, purchased at Talking Leaves...Books (I almost wrote "Nooks".)

Well, even though I've never read this one, I did look up the meaning of the word "jape." It means "joke," and like "joke," it can be a verb or a noun.

Only two more after this one. Sorry if this has gotten a little tedious. Not only have I not read many of the PKD books that I own, but I purchased all of them at the same place and around the same time, and have found it difficult to dredge up specific memories. Maybe I am not trying hard enough.

I am trying to remember what was going on in the Spring of 2004. We were working on our other house, for sure.

In the winter I remember we spent almost a month traveling around Guatemala. I think we must have started reading the Dick books after Guatemala, because I don't remember reading them there. I remember I brought Tristram Shandy, of all things, with me to read, along with some of the Creeley-Olson letters. I remember buying Lori a copy of Crime and Punishment at an English language bookstore in Panajachel.

In Panajachel, we also took advantage of a "Mayan Sauna" that was offered at our little hotel. It's similar to a sweat lodge: a small stone building with a very low roof. A man sits outside stoking the fire with a foot-operated bellows. There is a shower, so when you work up a good sweat, you can go cool off before returning to the sauna. You also get a pitcher of cold water with lemon to drink. Every once in a while you pour hot water on the coals to fill the room with steam. Some kind of herb is mixed in with the coals, which gives off a pleasant vapor.

I also remember that in Panajachel we discovered dark chocolate laced with chili peppers. Mmm.

Panajachel sits on the shore of the spectacularly beautiful Lago Atitlan, a mountain lake formed in the crater of a collapsed volcano. Several live volcanoes surround the lake. One of them was smoking most of the time we were there.

We actually climbed to the top of one volcano -- Pacaya, I think it was called -- on our second day in the country. When we reached the peak we discovered that a little pustule had broken open on the surface. We were able to watch the hot lava flow out on to the crust that covered the opening. Every several minutes the volcano belched a little more lava through the hole, shooting it sometimes as high as a hundred feet in the air. We stood in awe only a stone's through away from the little eruption -- awe at what we were witnessing and awe that no one was forcing us to leave for our own safety.

There, I did remember something.

from The Man Who Japed

At seven a.m., Allen Purcell, the forward-looking young president of the newest and most creative of the Research Agencies, lost a bedroom. But he gained a kitchen. The process was automatic, controlled by an iron-oxide-impregnated tape sealed in the wall. Allen had no authority over it, but the transfiguration was agreeable to him; he was already awake and ready to rise.

Squinting and yawning and now on his feet, he fumbled for the manual knob that released the stove. As usual the stove was stuck half in the wall and half out into the room. But all that was needed was a firm push. Allen pushed, and, with a wheeze, the stove emerged.

He was king of his domain: this one-room apartment within sight of the--blessed--Morec spire. The apartment was hard won. It had been his heritage, deeded to him by his family; the lease had been defended for over forty years. Its thin plasterboard walls formed a box of priceless worth; it was an empty space valued beyond money.

The stove, properly unfolded, became also sink and table and food cupboard. Two chairs hinged out from its underside, and beneath the stored supplies were dishes. Most of the room was consumed, but sufficient space remained in which to dress.

His wife Janet, with difficulty, had gotten into her slip. Now, frowning, she held an armload of skirt and looked around her in bewilderment. The central heating had not penetrated to their apartment as yet, and Janet shivered. In the cold autumn mornings she awoke with fright; she had been his wife three years but she had never adjusted to the shifts of the room.

"What's the matter?" he asked, shedding his pajamas. The air, to him, was invigorating; he took a deep breath.

"I'm going to reset the tape. Maybe for eleven." She resumed dressing, a slow process with much wasted motion.

"The oven door," he said, opening the oven for her. "Lay your things there, like always."

Nodding, she did so. The Agency had to be opened promptly at eight, which meant getting up early enough to make the half-hour walk along the clogged lanes. Even now sounds of activity filtered up from the ground level, and from other apartments. In the hall, scuffling footsteps were audible; the line was forming at the community bathroom.

"You go ahead," he said to Janet, wanting her dressed and ready for the day. As she started off, he added: "Don't forget your towel."

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