Philip K. Dick week continues with The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike. Dick had an agreement with Harcourt, Brace to write the book. He must have worked with high hopes of finally cracking the New York literary market. But when he finished the manuscript in the spring of 1960, the publisher turned it down. Dick returned to science fiction and did not produce a "mainstream" novel again until The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, which appeared in 1982.
The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike by Philip K. Dick. Mark V. Ziesing (1984), 223 pp.
This novel tells the story of two men who live down the road from one another in suburban Marin County. One is Walt Dombrosio, a product designer who commutes to a job in San Francisco. The other is Leo Runcible, a Jewish realtor who continuously promotes Marin for new development. Both have discontented wives, but otherwise their experiences in suburbia are quite different. Conflict arises when Dombrosio invites his black mechanic to dinner, leading Runcible to worry that interracial socializing will cause property values to drop. Bad feelings escalate all around, largely to the detriment of Dombrosio. The title refers to a possibly prehistoric skull that turns up on Runcible's property.
This is the longest (and the last) of Dick’s forays into literary fiction. Like the others, it presents ordinary people in real-life situations. The main characters are understandable if not quite likeable. The minor characters never fall into stereotypes. Dombrosio is probably angrier than Dick’s other thirty-something guys in unhappy marriages. Runcible is Dick’s first major character whose Jewishness goes beyond his name and whose treatment reflects anti-Semitism. The writing is crisp, though the subplot with the skull seems far-fetched, and the episodes without any of the book's main characters appear unnecessary. Readers who enjoy Dick’s other mainstream novels will probably like this one as well.