The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is the last book Dick wrote, published just after he died in 1982. I thought it was terrific, although I’m someone who enjoys the exploration of theology that makes up most of the plot.
Our narrator, a woman named Angel Archer, tells about her father-in-law Bishop Tim Archer who has a crisis of faith after the discovery of an ancient document casts a doubt on Jesus’s divinity. It opens on the day of John Lennon’s murder in 1980, but the majority of the story is flashbacks.
This one is considered one of Dick’s “mainstream” novels, and I wish he had been given a chance to write more books like this. It’s funny and smart and grounded in the real world of Berkeley, California.
Cast of characters
- Timothy Archer – Episcopalian Bishop of California
- Jeff Archer – Timothy’s son
- Angel Archer – our narrator. Jeff’s wife and Timothy’s daughter-in-law
- Kristen Lundborg – Angel’s best friend and Timothy’s mistress
- Bill Lundborg – Kristen’s schizophrenic son
- Edgar Barefoot – hosts a radio show about mysticism on KPFA in Berkeley
- Fred Hill – owner of the Bad Luck restaurant. Possible KGB agent
- Dr. Rachel Garret – the elderly medium they use in an attempt to talk to Jeff from beyond the grave
Other things to know
- The Zadokites – an obscure Jewish sect
- The Zadokite documents – fictional documents that predate Jesus by 200 years.
Supposedly they contain “Q” which is the basis for the synoptic gospels in the Bible. The Zadokite fragments, part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, are a real thing, but the rest was invented by Dick
I picked up this copy at the library. The author photo on the back, credited to Nicole Panter, shows Dick wearing a Rozz Tox t-shirt, a reference to Gary Panter’s Rozz Tox Manifesto that argues artists should embrace capitalism. Nicole Panter was the manager for The Germs, and Gary won three Emmys for his set designs for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
Some Rozz Tox quotes:
- Capitalism for good or ill is the river in which we sink or swim.
- Waiting for art talent scouts? There are no art talent scouts. Face it, no one will seek you out. No one gives a shit.
- Law: If you want better media, go make it.