While this may be yet another Philip K. Dick Novel, it is just a plain novel. Can you believe that? I was taken aback at first, I mean c’mon, this is the guy that brought us “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “A Scanner Darkly” and more. I was not aware of PKD writing anything non-science-fiction, but “The Broken Bubble” is not sci-fi. I will admit once I found that out I was almost ready to stop reading. I’m glad I didn’t. It turned out to be a very nice read.
“The Broken Bubble,” published in 1988, is the only “mainstream” novel of his to have been published. It was published posthumously, so maybe there will be more of these treasures discovered and released.
This novel is about 1950s San Francisco, and weaves in many characters showing how our lives are affected not only by those around us, but by even those we don’t know.
The part that kept me reading was the lead character, Jim Briskin. Jim is a DJ for radio station KOIF in San Francisco. Being an on-air personality at a radio station, myself, I really felt “in-tune” with the goings on in the character of Jim Briskin. However Jim has many life changing events that take place in the story that keep the reader rooting for this “everyman.”
It starts out with a sales manager selling an ad for one of those “crazy” used car dealers, “Loony Luke.” Luke wants to run his commercials every hour even during the classical music portion of the station’s programming. Looking at that almighty dollar the sales manager sees the sale and jumps on it. The next day when the commercials are set to air the fun begins.
Jim Briskin is the afternoon and evening DJ for KOIF. During the afternoons he runs a show called “Club 17” which plays the pop music for teens (realize this is 1956 and that this music is “rock-n-roll” what will lead to a cultural rebellion in teenagers), during the evenings it’s classical music for “the old ladies.” After running the “Looney Luke” commercial several times already (the commercial is one of those typical used car dealer yelling commercials, but this is the time in radio when most commercials are read live so Jim has to act like he’s enthused) it’s time to run the spot in the classical music program. At this point Jim says (live and on the air) “I can’t do this, I’m tired of this commercial.’ This act of defiance gets him suspended for 30 days and the adventures begin.
In this novel we are introduced to many characters that all become intertwined in a very touch human story. It’s funny but the main theme from this book is discovering true love and deciding when it is true.
Jim and his ex-wife Pat meet with a teenage married couple (fans of Jims show) Art and Rachel. Art leaves Rachel to have a whirlwind affair with Pat, and Jim Feels obligated to take care of Rachel (who is pregnant with Art’s child).
Many other characters become intertwined demonstrating the idea of how our lives are touched by more than is realized. The teenagers on the point of launching a rebellion, all gather around a central figure that seems to be a socialist and has a radio controlled car called “The Horch” which is used to create destruction.
The book gets its name from a side character Thisbe Holt. Thisbe is a stripper that entertains by becoming totally nude and crawling inside a huge bubble, like an adult version of a hamster ball. She then is rolled around among the men in an orgy of spectacle. The encounter which creates the broken bubble is one in which she is performing for a convention of optometrists and they get a bit rowdy. This scene is funny yet disturbing in many ways.