JAY [00:00:01] “The bishop is tired. The bishop is always tired. The bishop is too tired to answer the question. Is there any proof of the existence of God? No. There’s no proof. Where’s the Alka Seltzer?”
PHIL [00:00:26] Welcome to Dog-eared and Cracked, the podcast, where we each recommend a book for the other. Turn on the mikes and find out how it was received.
[00:00:35] Our tastes differ wildly, so we’re never quite sure what’s going to happen. Did the book connect or was it a hate read? Join us to find out and maybe pick up some great reading suggestions at the same time. Fortunately for you, the podcast listener know reading is required. I’m Phil.
JAY [00:00:53] And I’m Jay.
PHIL [00:00:54] And this week we’re discussing The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick, published in 1982.
JAY [00:01:02] Before we get to the book, if you like the podcasts, please rate reviews on Apple podcast or wherever you listen. Ratings and reviews make the podcast easier to find and allow us to reach more people. You can also leave us feedback on Facebook, and we’re always interested to see when books resonate with our listeners.
PHIL [00:01:21] So, Jay, I know that you’ve been wanting to tell me what you thought of The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, and honestly, I have no idea what you made of it. I did realise as we were leading up to to recording this podcast that one of the ideas behind it was that we would push each other a bit with suggestions and books we might not otherwise read. I realised this week that I was actually quite invested in in wanting you to like this book for some reason. And I believe I’m going to be disappointed, just from a few hints you’ve dropped. But before we get to the book, why don’t you tell us a bit about the author, Philip K. Dick.
JAY [00:02:03] Philip K. Dick is an American writer. He’s known for his work in science fiction. And during his lifetime, he’s produced 44 published novels and approximately 121 short stories.
[00:02:14] His fiction explored various philosophical and social themes and features recurrent elements: things like alternate realities, monopolistic corporations, drug abuse, authoritarian governments and altered states of consciousness. So heady stuff for sure. Philip K. Dick struggled with drug abuse, in particular amphetamines. And this may have contributed to his erratic behaviour in later years and his death at the age of 53 from a stroke. In 1974, Dick wrote a letter to the FBI accusing various people, including a University of California professor of being foreign agents of Warsaw Pact and the Warsaw Pact is, I guess, a collective agreement signed by all the communist nations at that time. At one point, Dick felt that he’d been taken over by the spirit of the Prophet Elijah. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer was published shortly after his death in 1982. Interestingly enough, while the author of our last book, Bertrand Russell, was married three times, Philip K. Dick managed to stand at the altar five times.
[00:03:21] I know we’re on a roll here. I can’t wait for our next book.
PHIL [00:03:28] I didn’t know that about the FBI letter, which puts a thing in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer in a perspective. The restaurant owner who everyone thinks is a KGB agent. Now, Dick wrote a lot of books. I’ve actually I have, if I look to my right here, I have a couple of shelves that are almost entirely his books. I’ve read most of them. This one stands out because it’s really quite different from any of the others. Have you read any of them?
JAY [00:03:53] No, I never got around to reading his books. I did contemplate picking up Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? because it’s a amazingly cool title. And my understanding was that it formed the basis for the movie Blade Runner. I also hadn’t realised that the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report was actually based on his book as well. And there’s some really intriguing concepts in that movie. So when you recommended it for our podcast, I was really looking forward to having this opportunity to dive in. And I read an interview with him just before he died, actually about six months before he died. They published an interview he had done and he disclosed that he got paid $7,500, that’s about $23,000 in today’s dollars, to write the novel. So we’ll judge in a minute, I guess, if he was under overpaid for that.
PHIL [00:04:38] So that was his advance for for The Transmigration of Timothy Archer?
JAY [00:04:42] That was the complete amount he got paid.
PHIL [00:04:45] Yeah, well, he was notorious, I think, for having — he wrote a lot, partly because by the time he would finish a book, he’d have burned through his advance, and then he had no more money and he had to immediately start another one.
[00:04:56] So, tell us what the book’s about. Walk us through the plot. And I know obviously there’s going to be some spoilers here, but the book is nearly 40 years old. So I think we should be OK with that.
JAY [00:05:06] All right. Well, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer — the story is told through the voice of the main character, Angel Archer. She is ostensibly piecing together the reasons why both her husband Jeff, her father-in-law, Timothy, and her father-in-law’s mistress, Kirsten — they’ve all died. Now, while that may feel like all the ingredients for a thrilling mystery, it’s not.
[00:05:30] Told through a series of flashbacks. Angel passively narrates the story for the reader. Ultimately, Kirsten’s son, a minor character in the novel who is in and out of treatment for mental illness, shows up at the end of the novel claiming that he is the reincarnation of father-in-law Timothy. And it’s important to note that there are major themes of theology in this novel and that Timothy Archer is technically a bishop of the church. And that he sets out to investigate claims that a discovery made 200 years before the arrival of Jesus Christ has the potential to refute the very essence of Christianity. So, Phil, speaking of losing faith, why did you want me to read this?
PHIL [00:06:08] Well, I mean, I know you have an interest in philosophy. And we’ve talked about, you know, sometimes we’ve talked about various philosophical things at different times. So, you know, I thought there might be something intriguing in there for you. I’ve read this book a few times. It’s been a while since the last time. So I was kind of curious about how I was going to see it, rereading it now, and also to find out how you would see it as someone who had never read it before. I didn’t really know if you had an impression of Philip K. Dick. So, I think often, a lot of people think, oh, he’s the guy who wrote the book Blade Runner was based on, you know. So I guess I was thinking if you had some impression of him, that this might — because this book is so different in tone — it might shake that impression up a little bit. We can get into the specifics — I was thinking, you know, when we talked about The Utility of Boredom, you talked about name-dropping and too much, too many baseball terms, and I realised reading this and the number of mentions of different works of art, and opera, and philosophy, and I was thinking, oh, God, if Jay thought there was too much name-dropping in The Utility of Boredom, what is he going to think of this?
[00:07:18] I’ve got a sense already, but tell us sort of over all, what did you think of the book then? And then we can discuss some specific parts of it.
JAY [00:07:26] Well, I knew that I would have to respond here to your question ultimately about what I thought of the book, and I had to give a lot of thought to how I’d answer that question, mainly because to say you hated a book doesn’t really contribute a lot to the conversation.
[00:07:40] So I did spend time exploring exactly why I dislike this book. And I needed to do that so we could write up a review in a way that wouldn’t force me to check the explicit language checkbox when uploading the review.
[00:07:53] Now, there’s a few obvious reasons for myself why I dislike this book. I would include the lack of underlining dramatic tension, the storyline, and — we’ll come back to this again and again, but the characters were not likeable. Nothing really happens over the entire storyline. Events occur in this novel that are meant to be thought-provoking and brilliant philosophical insights, but are just plain ridiculous. Dick sets up two or more unlikeable characters, the arrogant Tim and his bitter girlfriend Kirsten, to believe that Tim’s son Jeffrey has returned from the grave as a poltergeist. And they’re convinced it’s Jeff’s ghost because of the disarranged clothes and broken mirrors.
[00:08:31] I don’t know. I don’t understand. Was Jeff a slob? One who’s alive and that’s how they know it’s him? I don’t know. It just makes no sense to me. Then they visit a medium to communicate with Jeffrey. And the explanation given is that the medium has read their minds.
[00:08:47] So, meaning that it’s implausible that Jeffrey is communicating from the grave, but plausible that mind-reading is a legitimate activity. As for namedropping, I was able to keep up this time Phil, but there are still continued references to obscure historical characters that I had to do research on. Subjects of discussion such as Albrecht von Wallenstein, who led the armies on the Catholic side in the 30-year war. That doesn’t come up in conversation that very often. Or Zadok, who apparently was a priest in the time of David and King Solomon.
PHIL [00:09:19] I did go and go look up, Zadok, but I. I let Wallenstein be. I figured I would get whatever I need to know about him from the book. So, one of the things you said is that the characters are unpleasant.
[00:09:37] So, you know, I mean, what did you make of — of course, you mentioned, you know, Tim the arrogant bishop and his unpleasant girlfriend, Kirsten. And I imagine you came across at some point that tim is actually based on Bishop James Pike, who was the Episcopalian Bishop of California and a friend of Dick’s. So a lot of the stuff that happens to Archer actually is based on on Pike’s life. But what did you make of Angel, who’s the narrator? So, Dick had been criticised many times for writing really weak female characters, who are kind of like stock characters. And it’s something that Ursula Le Guin took him to task for at one point, and he later said he was grateful to her because she challenged him to try to write a more complex female character.
[00:10:26] Angel is is Timothy Archer’s daughter-in-law. She denies she’s in love with Archer, but she sure spends a lot of time with him, and thinking about him, and thinking about how he thinks. And I’m not sure how reliable or likeable she is as a narrator. I wondered what you made of her.
JAY [00:10:42] It’s important to note that the entire story is told from her perspective, and that we don’t really gain any any deeper understanding. As a narrator, I don’t know if hers is the best point of view and I don’t know how reliable is she is. She spends most of her time smoking weed and hanging out with her boyfriends, who have terrible humour.
PHIL [00:11:00] OK.
JAY [00:11:00] She’s a very passive observer. She doesn’t really interact with any of the other characters in the same way, and she just observes what they do and reflects on it. For example, Phil, with Fool, you really didn’t relate — and I know you had a difficult time with the main character, Pocket. And I think that started to bias your review of the novel. And it’s the same with this book for myself with with Angel Archer. She’s an unlikeable person. She’s arrogant. She feels that she’s over-educated. And she refers to that time and time again.
PHIL [00:11:38] The funny thing is she has like a B.A. in English from Berkeley right?
JAY [00:11:41] I know.
PHIL [00:11:42] She’s not that over-educated!
JAY [00:11:43] Well, I had to — I wouldn’t have thought so. But then I went back and I thought, well, 1979, maybe that was a big deal back then.
[00:11:51] And even then, she’s really trying to relate and trying to explain to the reader why Kirsten and Timothy believe hat Jeffrey has come back. There’s themes about knowledge and how we know what we know in this book. This is her description, at one point. She goes, and this is to the reader, this isn’t even a conversation she’s quoting and talking about the means of obtaining accurate cognition. The names for it. And she goes to say, “It has five stages and I’ll not go into it because it is difficult.” Too difficult for the reader! Like, she’s arrogant with the reader! I did not like her.
PHIL [00:12:31] I think the first couple of times that I read this, I just kind of took her at face value. And then what got me this time was at the start of chapter two, she writes a letter to a journalist who’s done a profile of Timothy Archer, and she writes to the journalist and tells her how much she appreciated the story and how it made her feel close to Tim. And then she tells the reader that she hated the profile, the writer’s full of crap and basically got everything about Archer wrong. I was going to ask you what you made of that, but I think you’ve already kind of said that you she’s just an unpleasant person, right?
JAY [00:13:02] She’s unpleasant. She is unsympathetic because of that arrogance. She’s constantly reminding the reader that she’s overly educated, too smart for her own good. Here’s a quote: “That is the trouble with education. I realised you have been everywhere before, seen everything vicariously. It has all already happened to you.
PHIL [00:13:20] Well, one of the ways that she relates to Kirsten, who was her friend and leader of a feminist group in Berkeley and then becomes her father-in-law’s mistress — one of the ways she tries to cheer her up is they tell each other these horrible racist jokes. And that comes up a couple of times in the book, which is really off-putting. Like, I wonder if Dick was explicitly trying to tell us that he knew she was unpleasant.
JAY [00:13:44] I think you’re right. That was my guess, because I think what he was trying to do is establish that the character Kirsten was a terrible person and that Angel was not perfect herself. One of the most gratifying sections in the book is when I think Dick is finally admitting the arrogance of his character because he has a psychologist tear a strip off Angel for letting schizophrenic Bill smoke joints with her, and tells her to get other friends her own age, that she’s ruining the health of Bill. And it’s the first time in the entire book when Angel is called out. It’s pretty harsh. It’s a book I would almost read again, which is a bizarre comment. But because I, I struggle with if it’s a great book or the worst book I’ve ever read in my life.
PHIL [00:14:32] So, yeah, several years ago when there was the director’s cut of Apocalypse Now, I went to see it with my father in law. Documentary filmmaker. And at the end of it, he turned to me and said, “So what do you think, Phil? Work of genius or piece of crap?”
JAY [00:14:53] Well, I’ll relate an anecdote. We have a couple of listers who are trying to follow along and read the books ahead of time, just so they can enjoy the podcast. He bought the book The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, and I asked him about itm and he said he didn’t get past chapter four. I can only commiserate.
PHIL [00:15:14] Can we talk about a one or two of the themes that run through it?
JAY [00:15:17] Please!
PHIL [00:15:19] I mean, for me, you know, obviously, I guess one of the main themes is loss, which is right there in the first chapter. I have to say, I loved the first chapter. So there’s loss of family and friends, right? And there’s a persistent sense — she talks a lot about Berkeley and how she’s not going to leave Berkeley. But it’s clear that her Berkeley has changed from when it was like the old radical Berkeley. And it starts on the day John Lennon’s murdered. So let me read the first paragraph.
[00:15:47] “Barefoot conducts seminars on his houseboat in Sausalito. It costs one hundred dollars to find out why we are on this earth. You also get a sandwich. But I wasn’t hungry that day. John Lennon had just been killed. And I think I know why we are on this earth. It’s to find out what you love the most will be taken away from you. Probably due to an error in high places rather than by design.”.
[00:16:07] So what what did you think of that in general in terms of setting the tone for the book?
JAY [00:16:13] I did like the first paragraph. I thought it was a great start to the book. It was all downhill after that.
[00:16:18] No, the reason why is that the characters are so unlikeable, and I just was not able to connect with them. And it’s it’s funny the bit about the hundred dollars and the sandwich because this — I’ll give you an example of why I find these characters so difficult to appreciate. Barefoot later on in the story meets Angel and they’re talking, and he continues to harp on this idea that the smart people actually come for the sandwiches and not the words of wisdom.
[00:16:50] And it comes up like two or three times. He keeps pushing this point with Angel. And I just felt like he’s trying to be very clever — and basically obtuse, just veiled as intelligence.
[00:17:03] And the worst part of his story. I don’t know if you recall this, Phil, is he’s talking about experiencing Satori, which is the Buddhist concept of sudden enlightenment. Do you remember the story?
PHIL [00:17:14] Yeah.
JAY [00:17:14] So, he goes, the story goes he experiences this enlightenment while he’s out walking and he sees a child who’s playing dangerously in traffic and rather than going home and writing up what he experienced, he waits around till the parents come home so that he can advise them that their children, their child needs to be watched.
[00:17:34] When he gets home, he’s lost out on the opportunity to write down his enlightenment for others. The worst part of the story is I’m reading it, and there is no sense of irony, no sarcasm. And it’s, it’s almost as if readers are meant to take him seriously that that really happened to him. It’s nonsense.
PHIL [00:17:52] People who go around saying they’re enlightened, it’s probably a good sign that they’re not, right?
JAY [00:17:56] I think enlightenment is obtainable. Absolutely.
PHIL [00:18:00] Kind of leads into one of my favourite passages from the book. And it has to do with with Bill, Kirsten’s son who has schizophrenia. So I had actually completely forgotten this aspect of the book, which surprised me, but autism and schizophrenia are recurring themes in some of Dick’s books, and his views are dated on them. But they’re also — they were based on what people knew at the time. Like, I remember reading something not that long ago from some paper, an academic paper, an older one, saying, you know, the schizophrenic is incapable of abstract thought or something. And I was like, what the hell? But it turns out that was a common belief.
[00:18:42] So. I mean, Timothy Archer, you know, he’s not only capable of abstract thought, he’s totally lost in it a lot of the time. And I think he’s the kind of character who — I think I kind of knew people like him when I was younger, who I thought were brilliant and looking back on them later, I would have thought they were jerks. So in this particular passage, Timothy Archer is going on and on to Bill, you know, trying to prove to him that that his son has returned and uses an example of a car. Do you remember this passage?
JAY [00:19:17] I do. He’s talking about the car being parked in the parking lot and there’s water dripping from the bottom of the car.
PHIL [00:19:26] Right. So Tim says, you know, his idea is if there’s water dripping under your car, obviously it’s coming from your car. Right?
JAY [00:19:33] That’s right.
PHIL [00:19:33] He says, “Let me give you an example. You look under your parked car and you find a pool of water. Now, you don’t know that the water came from the motor. That’s something you have to assume. You have evidence.
[00:19:44] “Is the car parked in your own parking slot?” Bill said. Or is it a public parking lot like at the supermarket?”.
[00:19:49] “Slightly taken aback. Tim said, Tim paused, “I don’t follow you.”
[00:19:54] “If it’s your own garage, your parking slot,” Bill said, “where only you park, then it’s probably from your car. Anyway, it wouldn’t be from the motor. It’d be from the radiator or the water pump or one of the hoses.”
[00:20:06] And then Bill goes on to lead Tim through all these possibilities. Does your car have power steering? Could it be from the transmission? Like, maybe it’s from somewhere else? He starts quizzing Tim about his car, like, does he check his tire levels? And what kind of jack does he have in his trunk? Has he pumped up the spare? And what kind of car is it anyway?
[00:20:22] “I think it’s a Buick,” Tim said.
[00:20:24] “It’s a Chrysler,” I said quietly. “Oh, Tim said.”
PHIL [00:20:30] I mean, I thought…
JAY [00:20:32] That was my favourite section of book. He’s got this simple man, Bill, decimating the supposedly brilliant theological expert who always wins his arguments.
[00:20:43] It was it was written beautifully. It’s subtle and perfectly done. Even the bishop, Timothy, does not even relent. But he just quietly fades out of the argument. He’s unable to admit that Bill’s correctly refuted his thesis. It’s a great section.
[00:20:58] You know, Bill, Bill the schizophrenic son of Kirsten, he’s literally — like he’s the closest thing to a moral compass in this story. And the story would’ve been far more interesting if you know, Dick, had maybe challenged himself a little more in his writing and constructed the story from the perspective of schizophrenic Bill. It would’ve been interesting, an emotional counter to every other character’s narcissistic machinations. You know, it’s these spiritual gurus. I swear there’s more there’s more wisdom in a Carly Simon album than most of these spiritual gurus.
PHIL [00:21:47] Bill at the end believes that Tim’s spirit has entered his body, which is why it’s called the Transmigration of Timothy Archer. I thought it was kind of interesting when Angel says why you? And he says, because I’m used to hearing voices and having thoughts that are not my own. You’re left with this kind of ambiguity. I mean, partly I thought, OK, well, obviously, Tim hasn’t returned. And then part of me actually wanted to believe that he had. I mean, you mentioned this as one of those things you didn’t like about the book at the start. So how how did you see that?
JAY [00:22:19] I had a lot difficulty with it. It just didn’t fit with anything else. It was almost like Dick was writing this novel and merrily carrying along, and at the end he went, well, I need to kind of put an ending to it. You’re forcing the reader sit through the novel and you’ve — and it follows a path, and there’s kind of these logical steps, and there’s kind of this trust that that occurs between an author and a reader in that the reader trusts that the author is going to be consistent in how they work with the story. And then you can’t all of sudden go run counter to those rules and introduce an implausible idea into the universe that you’ve built up for the reader.
PHIL [00:22:59] Yeah. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I think you’ve probably articulated it much better than I could have. I think Angel said something at one point there, which I think captures a lot of what the book is supposed to be about or is about, which is the question of how do we know what we know.
[00:23:17] The thing that kind of upends Timothy Archer is the discovery of these ancient Zadokite scriptures I actually thought Philip K. Dick had made up, but he hadn’t. So one of the people who’s mentioned a couple of times in the book is a scholar named John Allegro, who is a real person who believed that the teachings of Jesus appeared in the scriptures, in these texts 200 years prior to to Jesus, meaning they weren’t original to him and that the Zadokites found enlightenment through eating of a particular mushroom that grew in a cave. And some of the characters in the book, like Angel, I think her attitude is like, well, who cares? The teachings are the teachings! Whereas for someone like Tim, for Tim Archer, that would completely destroy Christianity because, you know, Jesus is not this unique figure. I was kind of curious about that idea, of like which camp you would fall into: Of this sort of would undercut all of Christianity, or who cares?
JAY [00:24:13] It’s a great question. It’s — Christianity is actually a very difficult religion. There’s so many different puzzles. There’s the duality of Christ. How can someone be both the son of God and Man at the same time? There’s the problem of God’s omnipresence. And how can you intervene in human lives if you’re outside of space and time? So, again, it’s another paradox. And then, of course, there’s the question of evil.
[00:24:41] I would have expected him to basically take something on faith and the fact that he’s also, you know, he doesn’t — he decides not to believe in the Holy Spirit, Nancy, and then he is believing it — he doesn’t seem to me to be authentic. The fact that Timothy Archer begins to question things. He could have questioned a whole lot of different things in Christianity that are just paradoxes that people have just agreed to take on faith.
[00:25:08] Phil, here’s another here’s another part of this story that I thought was actually quite funny. But in the story, they take it so seriously.
[00:25:16] And it’s this idea that Christianity was founded on magic mushrooms effectively, and the twelve disciples were busted for smuggling them into Jerusalem.
[00:25:26] I just I just shook my head at that one.
PHIL [00:25:31] Well, there is a — I’m curious about reading John Allegro’s book now, because he has this whole book based on this mushroom theory. It kind of ruined his career also.
JAY [00:25:41] Yeah, I’d heard that as well.
PHIL [00:25:44] You know, a lot of Dick’s books and stories have been adapted for film and TV. Right? Like, you mentioned, some of them. There’s Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, The Man in the High Castle, which is a TV series. For some reason, nobody has done an adaptation yet of The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.
JAY [00:26:02] Yeah, that’s probably a good thing.
[00:26:03] This book is — there’s nothing, there’s nothing that happens in the book. And there’s a lot of sort of philosophical musing. A lot of quotes. But there’s no action. So the closest parallel I can think of is The Da Vinci Code. Does that make sense?
PHIL [00:26:23] I’ve never read it.
JAY [00:26:25] Yeah, I haven’t either, so this is a terrible comparison. So let’s just agree to agree that since neither one of us read it, that The Da Vinci Code is, is — there’s a lot more happening in it. In this book, there’s really nothing that happens.
PHIL [00:26:40] Well, probably the most dramatic part of it is when Timothy Archer goes to the desert to look for the cave with like a gas station map and two bottles of Coke and a little Nissan and drives off the edge of the road…
JAY [00:26:52] And that’s covered…
PHIL [00:26:53] … And winds up dying of exposure. And it just passed, right?
JAY [00:26:55] That’s exactly it! It’s covered off in like three sentences.
[00:26:58] Part of the problem is because of the the way that Philip K. Dick wrote this. So, he wrote it from from Angel’s perspective. So Angel, not — having made the decision not to go to Israel with Timothy, is really finding out about this after the fact. It would have, I agree, it would have been more interesting if somehow Dick could have woven in those details into the story and that would have created some some really interesting, dramatic tension.
PHIL [00:27:27] You know, one of the things I find interesting about these discussions is that when I’m reading the books, I’m thinking about your reaction to the books. Or I’m trying to read them kind of with different eyes. So, there were, there was one passage where, Tim, Timothy Archer decides that he was wrong about his son having come back to him and it was all just like: none of that was true. And Angel explains why he — Angel explains that she doesn’t think he was just doing it for expediency, that he really believed it. And she was explaining his change of mind. And that went on for like three to five pages of her talking about what his thought process was. And that was the first point, I think, where I thought, OK, this is, this is actually kind of strange. And why is she so into this? You know, for somebody who claims he’s just her father-in-law, right? Or her ex father-in-law, , you know, she’s very invested in defending him. And she’s also, like, clearly spent a lot of time thinking about him and how he thinks. And. And it was also kind of repetitive. And I thought — I remember thinking, oh, boy, Jay is going to get to this…
JAY [00:28:51] Well, I mean, there’s two ways to look at it, right, Phil? The one is that, that Angel, if we take the characters sincerely and in their motivation — so I would say, I would answer that as Angel was really just possibly even jealous of Timothy Archer, and that’s why she was almost so obsessed with how he thought, what he was thinking and his motivation. Where he would end up.
[00:29:18] But the difficulty I have with this novel. Is that there are passages in there — and you’ve pointed out one you know, one section in particular, where it just felt like Philip Dick was just showing off. He was, he was literally just trying to create this — basically show off about how how much he knows and how smart his characters are. And not ever giving consideration to the reader and how the reader would actually feel about that. I don’t feel this book was written first for a reader. It was written for Philip K. Dick. He wanted this book for himself. I understand that. And that’s fair. I just, you know, as a reader, I just I found a difficult.
PHIL [00:30:07] Well, that’s maybe a good lead-in to our offering our personal ratings of the book. So we have a scale of one to five, and I figured that today. I’ll stick with the religious theme. One means it’s about as enjoyable as dealing with tenacious proselytizers. And five means you’re ready to book a tour to the Dead Sea yourself. Go find that cave. So how low on the rating scale does The Transmigration of Timothy Archer rate?
JAY [00:30:45] So, Phil, you and I have been friends for a long time. I just need you to commit that we will remain friends.
PHIL [00:30:55] I think we’re good.
JAY [00:30:56] Okay.
[00:30:58] So for this particular book, I was actually tempted to introduce my own scale, where ratings are actually from negative five to zero. Zero means you just feel bad that you spent 20 bucks on the book and you’re debating whether you’re going to find a place for it on your bookshelf. A negative five means it may have psychologically scarred.
[00:31:19] To our podcast listeners, I would advise you to hide this book from your kids, not because it’s inappropriate, but because if it’s the first book they pick up, they may never again want to read their lifetime.
[00:31:34] Are you still with me? Are we still friends?
[00:31:37] In all seriousness, I gave this book a 1.25, but only because the paperback edition I was reading helped end the life of a particularly vicious horsefly that was taking a chunk of flesh from my leg as I read the book outside. And I feel Timothy Archer would’ve been proud of how the written depiction of his life actually served a purpose.
PHIL [00:31:56] I had obviously read the book a few times, and I had loved it originally. I find this rating thing hard, because I do find myself reassessing as I speak with you, because, you know, I definitely see some of the critiques that you make. I was going to come in at 4. Now I’m kind of wavering, but I guess I might as well stick with my my 4.
JAY [00:32:19] Well, that’s the beauty of this podcast, is that, you know, we’re — well, for one we’re even for Fool now. I put you through that. Now I fell better about that.
PHIL [00:32:32] And, paradoxically, well, interestingly, like when you said you would be tempted to read it again, I mean, I talked about how I disliked Fool, but I would — it also made me curious about reading more of his books.
JAY [00:32:40] And I was honest about I was I was sincere. Like I after the fact, I started and I realised how much you like this book. And I picked it up again, and I started re-reading sections and passages just to make sure that I really understood it and really appreciated it. But then I come across quotes like this, and if I can quote, give you one quote here.
[00:33:04] It goes:.
[00:33:05] “God save me from another night like that. But Goddamn it, had I not lived out that night drinking and crying and reading and hurting. I would never have been born. Truly born. That was the time of my birth and into the real world. And the real world, for me, is a mixture of pain and beauty. And this is the correct view of it, because these are the components that make up reality.” It’s like, Jesus. I’m sorry. I struggle.
PHIL [00:33:30] Yeah. Like, I can see that. And I — you know, we’re also shaped of course, by, you know, I was a lot younger when I first read this. I can’t remember when I first read it. And I would have been quite swept up by a lot of what I now would think of as kind of BS, that I then I would have thought of as brilliant and enlightening. Yeah, I mean, but I do you know, there’s sort of little moments of absurdity that I appreciated, like that the medium is donating her fee to the IRA. And I don’t mind Angel being so unpleasant. I found her an interesting enough character that I was willing to go along with that. But, you know, I can I definitely can see where you are coming from.
JAY [00:34:16] There is — there are flashes of of insight in the book. There are some great passages. But on majority, on the whole, it was it was kind of a bit of, it was a bit of a slog to get through it for myself.
PHIL [00:34:29] I think we could leave The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. We had, we spoke, we mentioned Fool a couple of times and there was some listener feedback that I got a kick out of related to Fool. Do you want to share that?
JAY [00:34:44] OK, I’ll read it out. And this is from Todd. “I found my desire to read Fool increasing as Phil continued to dissect the novel. Hard to place why. Almost like his sensibilities and off-puttings would be my own on-puttings.”.
PHIL [00:34:58] The less I liked it, the more he wanted to read it.
JAY [00:35:00] It seems so. Apparently they took the contrarian view. He did add that we did it both did a great job of not spoiling the book. And we are working hard, podcast listeners, to try and summarise the book a little better.
PHIL [00:35:15] Yeah, I seem to remember you said, “Summarize the book for us, Phil, and then I went off on some completely different tangent.”.
[00:35:21] So that’s it for for this episode of Dog-eared and Cracked. Next time we have Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye. So we’ll see you then. I have to say, I’ve never read a book by Charles Bukowski. I’ve had Ham on Rye sitting by my bedside for at least a month now and maybe longer. And I haven’t opened it yet because I’m sort of dreading what I’ll find within. But I will try to keep an open mind.
JAY [00:35:49] I think you’ll enjoy it. At the very least, it’ll be a much different book.
PHIL [00:35:54] All right. Sounds good. I will keep an open mind. All right. We’ll see you next time.