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Fiction

February 09, 1986|SARAH A. SPITZ

PUTTERING ABOUT IN A SMALL LAND by Philip K. Dick (Academy Chicago: $16.95). The jacket notes make sure we know that "Puttering About in a Small Land" is one of a handful of mainstream, non-science fiction novels by Philip K. Dick. Characters build like sculpted blocks, bouncing and deflecting off each other against the bleak backdrop of postwar World War II Los Angeles. Slim, drawn Virginia Lindahl suffers a tense drive to deposit her son at a private school in Ojai, mostly because "the home situation is bad." Husband Roger, a man whose former dreams of a bright future in TV electronics have been whittled down to a suburban retail shop bankrolled by Virginia, meets up with fellow private school parents, Chic and Liz Bonner. He's a prosaic, middle-class vice president, with entrepreneurial ambitions, and she's a ditzy, pre-Bohemian fluff of a female, upsetting the balance by her sheer lack of guile. Predictably, an affair between Roger and Liz ensues. Chic remains ignorant, proceeding with plans for a partnership with retail-man Roger; while Virginia blithely blackmails Roger in order to take over the business with Chic. Reduced to repairman, Roger putters about the shop at night, taking time out for weekend trysts with now-divorced Liz, until at last he returns to the oft-referred-to road not taken--and heads out. It is an unsettling, unresolved, uncomfortable book, sometimes mean and always moody, where motives lay hidden and actions seem random and empty.

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