Saturday, 8 December 2012

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Philip K. Dick Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1970)

Award yourself two points if you now have the first Tubeway Army album on your internal stereo rather than the Blade Runner soundtrack. Recently on a plane I had the option of watching the remake of Total Recall, a cover version of a film loosely based on something Philip K. Dick scribbled in the margin of an overdue library book. I couldn't be arsed and instead ended up watching Ted, Mean Girls, and Men in Black 3, all of which were pretty great. The more Dick I read - or rather that I re-read by this point - the less well-disposed I become towards misjudged cinematic interpretations full of flashing lights and male models demanding to know what is real. Excepting Linklater's excellent A Scanner Darkly, not one of them has either the wit or charm of the novels with which they've taken such huge liberties. Gary Numan is therefore greater than Ridley Scott, but I expect most of you already knew that.

Flow My Tears is I suppose what you might call a transitional novel. The two halves of Dick's brain were still on speaking terms, but both had sights set on higher and different paths. It's a precursor to the full bipolar genius of A Scanner Darkly and those later, even stranger books. Here we have the archetypal Dick character as jet-setting, internationally known lounge singer and talk show host waking up to a world which contains no record of his ever having existed, a world which has adopted the habit of sending anyone lacking the requisite identification off to a labour camp.

Flow My Tears reads something like a dialogue between Dick and himself - Jason Taverner as the established but increasingly alienated author in his forties, very much aware that the world is moving on and that creatively speaking, the game is probably up: Police General Felix Buckman as the more objective voice, stood some way back, disdainful of Taverner's self-involvement, of his ever having bought into the illusion of his own fame. Throw in an incestuous relationship with a twin sister whose death restores reality, albeit a more sober reality for having been faced with its own absolute lack of meaning, and you have something which works on many levels. It would be pure autobiography but for the layered symbols.

It's been a long time since I read Flow My Tears, and I recall regarding it as one of my absolute favourite Dicks - if you'll pardon the expression - and now I remember why. One of his very best, in my view.


  1. Listen to the sirens! We will never call again!

  2. I always thought it was 'they just want to be your friends', or is that another part of the song?