Sutin, Lawrence 1951–
Sutin, Lawrence 1951–
Hamline University Graduate School of Liberal Studies, professor in M.F.A. and M.A.L.S. programs; Vermont College, professor in low-residency M.F.A. program.
Loft-McKnight grant; Midland Writer's Award; Minnesota Book Award; Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire of France.
(Editor, with Mary Logue) Believing Everything, an Anthology of New Writing, illustrated by Lynn Weaver, Holy Cow! Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1980.
(Editor) Philip K. Dick, In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis, Underwood-Miller (Novato, CA), 1991.
(Editor and author of introduction) Philip K. Dick, The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1995.
Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
A Postcard Memoir, Graywolf (St. Paul, MN), 2000.
All Is Change: The Two-thousand-year Journey of Buddhism to the West, Little (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of numerous stories and essays to periodicals.
Lawrence Sutin's Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick traces the colorful and often sordid life of the science fiction writer. Author of such works as Solar Lottery, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and The Divine Invasion, Dick is generally considered among the best science fiction writers of his time. Sutin describes in his book how Dick's lifestyle and eccentric personality made him a popular subject of gossip in science fiction circles. Dick became addicted to amphetamines, the first step in a spiral of mental and physical degeneration that included religious visions, deterioration of his personal relationships, attempted suicide, paranoia, manic-depression, and agoraphobia. At the same time, Dick was charismatic, imaginative, and "full of marvelous ideas," declared Chicago Tribune contributor John Litweiler. Yet, as Litweiler noted, "his plots were usually disguised space operas, and only a few of his books include believable characters." Washington Post Book World contributor Peter Nicholls, who found Dick's books "wonderful," described him as having "a little of the baglady, ancient-mariner quality of strangers who buttonhole you in the street and tell you of strange visions." Nicholls credited Sutin with writing a well-researched, "very decent sort of life summary, though its subject, as so often in biographies, comes to seem more monstrous than the biographer seems to be aware." Litweiler praised Sutin as "a devoted researcher who spares no shameful details of Dick's misery," and he considered Divine Invasions to be a "fascinating story." Sutin also edited two volumes of Dick's writings, including In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis and The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings.
In Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, Sutin explores the life and career of a major—and often notorious—figure in the world of the occult. Crowley (1875-1947) was a British writer, mountaineer, and mystic who declared that "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law/Love is the law, love under will." Crowley believed that society should free itself from the repressive demands of Christian morality, and advocated absolute freedom for the individual—a philosophy that made his politics extremely libertarian. He designed a popular deck of Tarot cards and wrote several instruction manuals about what he termed "magick," and cultivated a self-image as a Satanist. Yet, according to Sutin, this image is misleading, for Crowley was also "brilliant, courageous, and flabbergasting." In a Village Voice review of Do What Thou Wilt, Richard Gehr noted that Sutin "shoots for an evenhanded assessment" of Crowley, but that "one waits in vain for Sutin to reveal that, contrary to all indications, Crowley was anything more than a prolific hack writer, sex addict, con man, and longtime junkie." A writer for Publishers Weekly, on the other hand, considered the biography a thoughtful, well-researched, and insightful study that "restores this controversial and important figure to his proper place in the history of modern spirituality."
Sutin turns inward in the well-received A Postcard Memoir. The book is structured around his fascination with old postcards, which he began collecting in 1973. As he muses in the book on images from this collection—none of which represents persons or places that he actually knows—each postcard evokes a memory that he goes on to explore in detail. He recalls a school field trip to a potato chip factory, his Little League team, his bar mitzvah, and his first loves, imbuing these reminiscences, according to a reviewer for PublishersWeekly, "with a rueful, forgiving wisdom." Noting the book's "odd juxtapositions and eerie or hilarious disjunctions," the reviewer praised A Postcard Memoir as an "evocative if elusive postmodernist hall of mirrors." In a Library Journal review, Nancy R. Ives praised Sutin's "witty, poetic sensibility."
In All Is Change: The Two-thousand-year Journey of Buddhism to the West, Sutin chronicles the history of Buddhism in the western world. A Publishers Weekly reviewer gave the book high marks for "comprehensiveness and depth," but suggested that nonspecialists might find it "ponderous." In a Library Journal review, however, James F. DeRoche recommended All Is Change as a work that would appeal to general readers as well as scholars. Sutin proves himself "a superb synthesizer in this avidly detailed chronicle of Buddhism's flow from East to West," wrote Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman, who described All Is Change as a "vital" study of one of the world's major spiritual developments.
Sutin once told CA: "Life is short. Write what it is you have to write. Take joy in the opportunity to do so."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 15, 1995, Carl Hays, review of The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, p. 890; May 1, 2000, Donna Seaman, review of A Postcard Memoir, p. 1640; September 15, 2000, Mike Tribby, review of Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley, p. 190; September 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of All Is Change: The Two-thousand-year Journey of Buddhism to the West, p. 25.
Chicago Tribune, February 20, 1990, John Litweiler, review of Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2006, review of All Is Change, p. 628.
Library Journal, December 1, 1980, Ellen Wittlinger, review of Believing Everything, an Anthology of New Writing p. 2513; May 15, 2000, review of A Postcard Memoir, p. 95; May 15, 2000, Nancy R. Ives, review of A Postcard Memoir, p. 95; September 15, 2000, review of Do What Thou Wilt, p. 82; June 15, 2006, James F. DeRoche, review of All Is Change, p. 76.
New Republic, December 6, 1993, Alexander Star, review of In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis, p. 34.
New Scientist, May 27, 1995, Marcus Chown, review of The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, p. 48.
Publishers Weekly, September 26, 1980, Sally A. Lodge, review of Believing Everything, an Anthology of New Writing, p. 119; January 2, 1995, review of The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, p. 67; March 13, 2000, review of A Postcard Memoir, p. 69; September 11, 2000, review of Do What Thou Wilt, p. 86; June 12, 2006, review of All Is Change, p. 49.
Reason, February, 2001, review of Do What Thou Wilt, 56.
Science Fiction Studies, March, 1997, Andrew M. Butler, review of The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, p. 172.
Village Voice, November 1-7, 2000, Richard Gehr, review of Do What Thou Wilt.
Washington Post Book World, December 31, 1989, Peter Nicholls, review of Divine Invasions, p. 5.
Armchair Interviews,http://armchairinterviews.com/ (July 5, 2007), Bernadette Cogswell, review of All Is Change.
Michael Finley Web Site,http://mfinley.com/ (July 5, 2007), review of A Postcard Memoir.