American Writers (One Hundred Pages at a Time)

Episode 306: Tocqueville on American Individualism (Democracy in America, Part 6)

In part 6 of my review of Alexis de Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA we look at his views on egoism and individualism as well as their impact on American culture and intellect. Is individualism good? What will individualism coming through democracy mean to the aristocratic cultures of Europe?

Philip K. Dick Club: Episode 139: Science Fiction Writer or an Oracle? (The Eye of the Sibyl)

In the 1975 short story (unpublished in his life) "The Eye of the Sibyl", Philip K. Dick writes about himself and his fiction and the Roman oracle. A good preview of the type of thinking that dominated the later part of his life.

Episode 305: Tocqueville on Democracy’s Intellectual Culture (Democracy in America, Part 5)

We jump into volume 2 of Alexis de Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, where he begins to look at the mind of a democracy. He starts with its intellectual culture. It is not all pretty. Is banality the cost of democracy?

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 138.2: A Pilgrimage at the End of Days (Deus Irae, Part 2)

I complete my look at the odd novel DEUS IRAE by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny in this episode. The core idea of a religious pilgrimage in a shattered world is pretty interesting, if not very well executed here. The secret identity subplot does create some tension toward the end.

Episode 304: Tocqueville on Slavery in America (Democracy in America, Part 4)

As we continue our push through Alexis de Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA and come to the end of volume 1, we explore what he had to say about the threats to American democracy due to slavery.

Philip K Dick Book Club: Episode 138.1: Post-Apocalyptic Gnostics (Deus Irae, Part 1)

In this episode, I take on the first half of DEUS IRAE by Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelanzy. It is an odd novel that has a host of narrative and tone issues, but as with all of Dick's novels is always interesting. There are some important previews of the VALIS trilogy themes in this book.

Episode 303: Tocqueville on Parties and Threats to Democracy (Democracy in America, Part 3)

Part three of my review of Alexis de Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA. In this part, he begins looking at federalism and its benefits to the American system of government and democracy overall. He also begins looking at the threats facing democracy and explores whether parties are one of those threats.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 137.4: Better a Crap Artist Conspiracy Theorist than Married (Confessions of a Crap Artist, Part 4)

Is is better to be married or a "crap artist" a bit off his rocker? Dick tries to answer this question in his splendid mainstream novel CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST. In this episode I finish off my analysis of this book.

Episode 302: Tocqueville on American Local Government (Democracy in America, Part 2)

Part two of my review of Alexis de Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA. Here we focus on his views of local and state governments in American democracy.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 137.3: The Family is Dead, Long Live the Family (Confessions of a Crap Artist, Part 3)

In part 3 of my review of CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST, we watch was one family collapses and another emerges in its wake. The horror of the eternal return of married life is the theme of this splendid novel. 

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 137.2: Not a Crappy Novel: Confessions of a Crap Artist (2)

This novel (CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST) is so good. Prove me wrong. Philip K. Dick is at his best when he is writing about marriage and the strangers who sleep next to us.

Episode 301: Equality of Conditions: Democracy in America, Part 1

In this episode, I start an eight-part series on Alexis de Tocqueville's DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA. What is the importance of the general equality of conditions in the creation of American democracy? What is the future of American democracy when this equality of conditions has been replaced with oligarchy?

Episode 300: Bye bye Jefferson (Jefferson’s Letters 1816-1816)

We come to the end of this series on the writings of Thomas Jefferson with the letters written during the last decade of his life. His lack of growth of race is striking, but his commitment to democracy did not seem to waver. This contradiction will forever shape how we look at him.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 137.1: Philip K. Dick’s Mainstream Novel (Confessions of a Crap Artist, Part 1)

In this episode we start to look at Philip K. Dick's CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST, written in the late 1950s. It was a mainstream novel that explores some interesting themes of family and new religious movements.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 136: Abortion and Malthus (The Pre-Persons)

Philip K. Dick has been writing obliquely about Malthus since some of his earliest stories. In the "Pre-Persons" Dick takes on these issues again, and along the way angered the feminists. Is this story just his response to Roe v. Wade or does it have a more significant place in his argument against gerontocracy?

Episode 299: Jefferson and Adams Friends Again (Jefferson Letters 1813-1815)

The highlight of Thomas Jefferson's retirement letters are those he wrote to John Adams. In this episode, we look at some of those and some other important and interesting letters he wrote in 1813, 1814, and 1815.

Episode 298: Jefferson Retired (Jefferson Letters 1807-1812)

In this set of letters, I look at Jefferson's last years in public life and the interests he pursued after retirement. Much of his work in this period involves education, culminating in his work on the University of Virginia.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 135: The Ennui of Space Travel (A Little Something For Us Tempunauts)

In this wonderful little story ("A Little Something for Us Tempunauts") Philip K. Dick explores the tedious repeatability of space exploration, both for us and for the explorers. Maybe we can do better if we had a real frontier?

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 134: Gated Communities and Police States (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said)

In this lengthy episode, I take a detailed look at FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID by Philip K. Dick. It presents a detailed police state, examines class dynamics in authoritarian societies, and has some of Dick's most touching looks at relationships and the futility of liquid relationships.

Episode 297: The Revolution of 1800 (Jefferson’s Letters 1800-1806)

In this selection of the letters of Thomas Jefferson we explore the "Revolution of 1800" and Jefferson's first term as president. The achievements of this period are well known, but more interesting may be his internal thoughts about his presidency.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 133.4: We Are All Mentally Ill (We Can Build You, Part 4)

In the conclusion of WE CAN BUILD YOU by Philip K. Dick, we find ourselves in a very different novel. After a mental breakdown Louis Rosen is institutionalized and we see one of Dick's best descriptions of the asylum.

Jefferson Unhinged (Thomas Jefferson Letters 1790-1799)

Thomas Jefferson comes back from Paris to become Secretary of State. Fights with everyone. Decides to do it himself and runs for president. Let's watch the rise of the party system in American politics by looking at Jefferson's letters from the 1790s.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 133.3: An Android Company Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand (We Can Build You, Part 3)

Well, they got an Abe Lincoln bot and all was going well, but they lost their designer and engineer. How can our little startup survive against the big corporations without its greatest minds? Find out in part 3 of my review of WE CAN BUILD YOU.

Episode 295: Jefferson’s Letters from Paris, 1785-1789

While Jefferson was in Paris he started having sex with Sally Hemmings, commented on the Constitution, and saw the spread of revolution in Paris. We look at one of the most critical periods of Jefferson's life through his letters.

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 133.2: What To Do With Civil War Bots? (We Can Build You, Part 2)

So they built a Edwin Stanton android, but what can they do with it. And what happens when you fall for your crazy underage co-worker? Find out in part 2 of my review of WE CAN BUILD YOU, by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 133.1: Just Your Small Town Android Dealer (We Can Build You, Part 1)

In this episode I begin my look at WE CAN BUILD YOU. This novel by Philip K. Dick was written in the early 1960s and feels like one of his conventional novels, but it has a sci-fi twist by giving us a small android building business.

Episode 294: Jefferson’s Revolutionary Letters

This episode covers Thomas Jefferson's letters written from his youth to the mid-1780s, when he was sent to Paris.

Episode 293: Assorted Jefferson Writings

In this episode I take on some assorted writings by Thomas Jefferson. Maybe the most important are the collected memoirs called the "Anas".

Philip K. Dick Book Club: Episode 132: Yeah. Marriage Still Sucks (Cadbury, The Beaver Who Lacked)

Back to a Philip K. Dick short story with the posthumously published "Cadbury, the Beaver Who Lacked". Is it his final word on marriage? Not quite, but it seems to serve as such.

Episode 292: Jefferson as Empire Builder (Jefferson’s Speeches)

In this episode, I look at some of Thomas Jefferson's speeches and examine how he envisioned the place of Indians in the American empire. Of particular importance are his written annual addresses and the speeches he delivered to Indian nations during his presidency.