Monday, February 2, 2009

...who happens to be black

I've heard this phrase fact I've said it myself. Maria, who happens to be Latino, or Paul who happens to be Asian, or Malcolm who happens to be ____________(fill in the blank)

This phrase however, contextualized within the writing of Philip K Dick and Fredrick Jameson is worth exploring and speaks to a literary tradition which neither acknowledge, purposefully or not.

Philip K Dick states that Stuart is the central narrative that ties all of the others together and Jameson asserts that Stuart initiates and enables the narratives to construct and carry out a rather dense interplay that I DO understand, thank goodness for diagrams, but think may be a bit over thought.

Jameson states: "that the the initial point of view figure(Stuart)happens to be black has the function of staging the appearance of the first really unusual character.

Dick states: My favorite character in the novel is.....Stuart Mc Conchie...who happens to be black... it was daring to have a major character be a black man.

I choose to look at Stuart as an object of "American Africanism" a terms coined by Toni Morrison in her book Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and Literary Imagination. He is so, because he represents in Morrison's words paraphrased:
A trope which little restraint has been attached to that is connected to the denotative and connotative blackness that African people have come to symbolize. A trope that imbues a non-white character with the ability to signify the entire range of views, assumptions, readings, and misreadings that accompany Eurocentric learning about marginalized peoples.
Essentially, Stuart is a part of the disabling virus within literary discourse, that allows a way of talking about and a way of policing matters of class, sexual license, and repression, formations and exercises of power, and meditations on ethics and accountability. The use of Stuart, enables the possibility of contemplating chaos and civilization, desire and fear, which leaves him to function as a mere mechanism for testing the problems and blessings of freedom (6-7)

And is he not all of this?
He seems the epicenter of the book, so says Dick. He is the centrifugal force that mediates the fracture(s) of society, by witnessing and partaking in the chaotic, and making possible the restructuring of society even on the microcosmic scale.

And if we look to Stuart as Jameson does, we can position him as enabling Dick to talk of a sexually independent (hedonistic?) woman, the hierarchy of social relations displayed in the "characterological system", and a meditation on value(s).

A truly daring move would've been to make Stuart the psychiatrist or Walt Dangerfield. A truly daring move would've been positioning him at the head of the West Marin community.

While Dick believes he is being progressive by using Stuart in such a way, he fails to acknowledge that he in fact is in-step with a long literary tradition of American Africanism, however intentional or not.


tuffy777 said...

Is this part two of the article? I don't see any place where you mention the title of the book that you're discussing???

By the way, in Phil's social and literary milieu, it was daring to have that character in his novel.

Robert A. Heinlein included many black characters, even protagonists, in his novels, but he never stated that they were black. Readers can deduce their race from his decriptions of them.

~~ Tessa Dick

nsnell said...

Tessa - the name of the novel is Philip K Dick's Dr Bloodmoney. no it isn't the second part of an article. It was just a quick blurb on the book and commentary associated with it