|WCS Books, hb, 05-7, Jun 1994, 291pp, $40.00, (James Kibo Perry)|
PKD xerox collection
GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER: A Previously-unpublished novel by Philip K. Dick
In 1952, a young Philip K. Dick wrote one of his first novels: GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER. He'd had success selling numerous SF short stories, but this was a serious, mainstream novel -- a steamy, claustrophobic tale of two men and a woman isolated by circumstance, and alienated from each other by their pasts. Set in 1949 amongst the evacuation of American businesses from mainland China, middle-age Verne Tilden and half-his-age Barbara Mahler are forced to put aside the lingering resentments and frustrations of a previous, stateside love affair in order to do the job they've been assigned, preparing a factory compound for transfer to the approaching communists. Carl Fitter is the unsuspecting young man who finds himself unknowingly embroiled in their tensions, and around whose sexual awakening with Barbara the novel is structured. Never before published, this is a competent early novel that reveals's Philip K. Dick's obvious talent and skill in a manner quite unlike any other book he was ever to produce.
TTHC` 283: When Phil Dick sat down to write
what became SOLAR LOTTERY he had already written and failed to sell two straight, literary
novels. Paul Williams' authoritative chronology in Only Apparently Real dates
VOICES FROM THE STREET as the first of these but several pieces of circumstantial evidence
leads me to say that GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER was written first. There is no "green
card" for either of these books in the SMLA files; but the agency did circulate one
or both of them to publishers in the mid 1950s. We know this from the SMLA card clipped to
the surviving manuscript of GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER; from a letter from Meredith to
Dick dated January 17, 1954 (well before any of Dick's novels reached New York) telling
him that Crown books, a major house and not an sf publisher, had not reached a decision
yet; and from Don Wollheim's memory of reading the first few chapters of a manuscript
"about a record shop" -- which describes either VOICES FROM THE STREET, or the
rather later MARY AND THE GIANT.
Kleo believes GATHER came first. It is cruder than VOICES, seemingly less personal, and it makes the never-repeated amateur's mistake of setting the bulk of the action in a place Dick never visited (China), a place he could hardly know as intimately as he would the locales of his later realist novels.Dick joined the Meredith agency so that they could circulate the manuscripts of his harder to sell items, it will be recalled; GATHER was probably what Dick had on hand, in mid-1952, for Meredith to sell. There's no doubt in my mind that Dick was writing what I believe to be his second book, VOICES FROM THE STREET, in June 1952; the book is set right at that time, and is dedicated "To S.M."
To the Novels page