MARY AND THE GIANT
Another--and perhaps the best--of the late Dick's heretofore unpublished mainstream novels: the simple, searing tale of a small-town girl trying to battle her way out of a straitjacketed existence. It's California in the early 50's. Twenty-year-old Mary Anne Reynolds lives in the small town of Pacific Park, works in a warehouse, is browbeaten by her drunken, abusive father--and naturally hates her existence. The only kicks she gets in life are by going down to the black district of town and listening to jazz in a rundown club. There, through a white pianist (a kindly, spaced-out beatnik named Paul Nitz), she meets an enormous black singer named Carlton B. Tweany, a kind of Paul Robeson of Pacific Park. She throws herself at him and they become lovers, but the laconic Tweany can't stand Mary Anne's continual quest for meaning in life, and soon takes up with a 1950's version of a groupie. Mary's next lover is Joseph Schilling, the 58-year-old owner of the classical-record shop where she has now gone to work. Schilling is besotted with Mary and teaches her about music and the music scene (there's a tour de force description of a San Francisco party full of nearly insane audiophiles), but even he can't hold her for long: in the end, she makes an unlikely marriage to Paul Nitz--and Dick actually allows her a quite un-Dickian modicum of happiness, however temporary. Yet another posthumous novel that should put to rest old claims that Dick was not a stylist--he was, and an elegant one. And it's wonderful here that Mary Anne is not brilliant, or a great beauty--but that Dick makes her quiet strength come absolutely alive. It's a pity it took 30 years for his novel to see the light of day.