I’ve done well on my private research but I think it’s time I made an open bid for assistance. I want help solving my most pressing and tricky question: did Philip K. Dick travel to the vicinity of Houplines while in France, and what did he remember of World War I?
As I have pointed out elsewhere on this blog, I have found two letters so far that indicate Phil had indeed experienced memories of the war (one such letter can be found on p. 200 of the published edition of the Exegesis, ed. Lethem et al and the other was in a 1977 letter to Julian Jaynes). In both cases, however, he attributed the memory to Valis and tied it in with a 2000 year gap between Roman times and the 20th century.
While my personal experience varies (memories from times in between Rome and WWI, and repeated memes between these various time periods, seem to suggest a consistent thread of my own existence rather than the memories of an outside spirit), I am intrigued by the possibility that Phil may have written down memories of the war somewhere. Furthermore, while he was a very long way from Houplines in 1977, he did travel to France for a sci-fi convention in Metz.
Generally, if it can be proved that Phil was at Houplines- particularly if he actually visited Ferme Buterne Military Cemetery and the Hotel de Ville there- then this would prove a definitive link between Phil and John. It would also explain my memories of the cemetery looking as it had some time in the mid-20th century rather than as it was in 1915 (a field with a few wooden crosses) or as it is now (with fewer, larger trees). It should also be noted that the summer of 1977 would have been 100 years after John’s birth. In other words, this would pretty much tie everything together so neatly it would be hard to ignore.
Now here’s where I need help: I’m swamped. As I’ve mentioned briefly, I’m not only a full-time student living off student loans and depending on good grades to survive, but I’ve got my hands full with my own novel projects and life won’t stand still for me long enough to devote a summer or two to studying Phil’s work- especially the full text of the Exegesis- in depth. I’m still reading what I can when I can, but it’s slow going with everything else that begs my attention.
If anyone can help me sift through this and find answers, I would be most grateful. I am looking for any and all WWI references in Phil’s work, and I’ve seen the detailed research Phil’s fans are capable of.
If I’m right, then I guess it won’t affect much since I still plan to keep a low profile, but I guess it might be reassuring to some that it’s possible some spark of Phil survives in me. And if I’m wrong, or if the results are entirely inconclusive, then I suppose life goes on and it will actually be something of a relief for me.
A signal boost would be most graciously appreciated but I would ask that nobody unduly stalk or harass members of Phi’s family or circle of friends. I do care about them and their feelings, and although they may have some answers, please only ask them if you can do so respectfully. At any rate, I feel the bulk of the answers I’m looking for lie somewhere in the 8,000+ pages of the Exegesis which is sadly more than I can sift through on my own.
Confidential emails can be sent to longlosttommy(at) gmail (dot) com.