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Writing Date

Pub. Date






<Oct 1960

Oct 1986






    Capsule: Written before 2-1-60, ms. Rec’d at SMLA around 10/11-60. This was probably a rewrite of A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS. Rejected by Harcourt, Brace publishers on 1-30-61 after 3 months of consideration.Pub. Gollancz, 1986.

    HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND, arrived, manuscript-wise, at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency in October 1960.

    It took three months for Harcourt, Brace to reject it. In a letter to the SMLA, editor Don Wickenden said

    One is left asking, at the end, what the book has really been about, what the author is trying to do and say in it. As with earlier Dick novels, it simply doesn't add up to enough.

    Dick was given eighteen months to return the $500 advance.

    HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND was first published in England by Gollancz in Oct 1986 and later a trade paperback edition came from Paladin Press in 1988. There has been no USA edition.

    The novel itself is a harsh one about a used-car salesman and his neighbor, the owner of a service garage. Life is hard for them and even when Jim Fergesson, the owner of the garage, retires and invests in real estate things don’t improve. In the end he has a heart attack and dies. Philip K. Dick himself said of the novel:

    HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND is a novel about the proletarian world from the inside. Most books about the proletarian world are written by middle-class writers.


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TTHC 363

{...} Dick's reply to Dimoff evades her points neatly, and between the lines he stated his own ideas about what he wanted to write. Going through each of his novels Dimoff had read, he commented on them, emphasizing in each case their incorrigible bitterness. There was one exception, A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS. In that book alone Dimoff saw a novel that didn't "taper off toward the end." It is this novel that Dick now proposed to rewrite. He would rework it, he wrote her, to supply a character "with whom 'the reader can identify.'"

Harcourt, Brace told him to go ahead. He did, and in a few months produced one of his gloomiest books, HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND, a book with no readily "identifiable" characters at all. The novel reached Harcourt, Brace in October 1960. This time they took three months to think it over before rejecting it. Wickenden did the honors:

"One is left asking, at the end, what the book has really been about, what the author is trying to do and say in it. As with earlier Dick novels, it simply doesn't add up to enough."

Dick was given eighteen months to return the $500 advance. Wickenden commented in passing that HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND as delivered was "quite different from the outline" they'd seen. And this is true: HUMPTY DUMPTY is a lot closer to what we know of GEORGE STAVROS than the new novel he had spit-balled in his letter to Dimoff. Anne, who read both, characterizes HUMPTY DUMPTY as "probably 95% the earlier novel."{...}

{...} For most of its way HUMPTY DUMPTY follows the same plot line as STAVROS with the important exception that Stavros' home life is completely changed yet again. Stavros, no longer Greek, is now named Jim Fergesson. His wife Lydia now does love him, though fussily: she is Greek, a thickly accented, middle aged "professional student." They have no children. Lydia continually chastises her husband for his materialist attitudes, for his pessimism, and for his tolerance of the book's other major character, Al Miller. {...}

TTHC 363 fn20:

Russ Galen doesn't believe that Dick had to return the money, as "it was an option and not returnable. I'm quite sure it wasn't repaid."

See DI 299

Collector’s Notes

????: "Setting copy" for first edition. WITH SIGNED INSCRIPTION BY EDITOR reading, "This is the setting copy for the Gollancz edition of HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND." With editor’s corrections (and some typesetting instructions) throughout. Photocopy of the author’s original typescript. Two hundred and eighty-six photocopied leaves, and four original ribbon-copy typescript leaves for blurb, title page, et cetera. Foliated and complete. Exhibits normal wear for working copy otherwise very good. With HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1986. First edition. Dust jacket illustration by Mark Foreman. Fine in fine dust jacket. Setting copy and first edition . . . $500.00

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