“I am made out of water. You wouldn’t know it, because I have it bound in. My friends are made out of water, too. All of them. The problem for us is that not only do we have to walk around without being absorbed by the ground but we also have to earn our livings.”
Confessions of a Crap Artist is the best of PKD’s mainstream novels and the only one to make it to market while he was still alive. He wrote it in late 1959, but it wasn’t finally published until 1975.
Jack Isidore moves to Marin County, California to live with his sister Fay. He gets involved with a local UFO group that believes the world will soon end while Fay cheats on her husband Charley with Nat Anteil who recently arrived in town.
The book deals with the same familiar themes as Dick’s other mainstream works (unhappy marriages and infidelity in Northern California) but manages to rise above the glumness of those other novels by weaving together Jack’s first-person point of view with Fay’s first-person POV and a third-person narrative dealing with Charley and Nat.
Cast of characters
Jack Isidore – the titular crap artist
Fay – Jack’s sister
Charley Hume – Fay’s husband
Nat and Gwen Anteil – a newlywed couple who recently moved to Point Reyes
Claudia Hambro – head of the Drake’s Landing UFO group
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.