“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
Roger and Virginia Lindahl, a generally unhappy couple living in Los Angeles, decide to send their son Gregg to a boarding school several hours away. Roger meets one of the other mothers at the school and ends up having an affair. Like most of Dick’s mainstream novels that weren’t published until after he died, this one is cynical and downbeat. It’s likely the best of the bunch, although the bar is awfully low… don’t get too excited.
Dick often borrowed from his other mainstream books, probably raiding them for ideas since they had remained unpublished. Modern TV Sales & Service (with a repairman named Olsen) first appeared in Voices from the Street and was again repurposed in Dr. Bloodmoney.
Cast of characters
Roger Lindahl – owner of Modern TV Sales & Service in Los Angeles
Virginia Lindahl – Roger’s wife
Gregg – Roger and Virginia’s seven-year-old son
Edna Alt – owner of Los Padres Valley School
Liz Bonner – mother of two boys who attend Los Padres
Chic Bonner – Liz’s husband
Pete Bacciagalupi – salesman at Modern TV Sales & Service
Olsen – repairman at Modern TV Sales & Service
Teddy – Roger’s ex-wife
Van Ecke – the math teacher at Los Padres
Mrs. McGivern – the science teacher at Los Padres
Marion Watson – Virginia’s mother
Jules Neame – owner of the garden supply store next door to Modern TV
Herb Tomford – floor manager of L & B Appliance Mart
Gather Yourselves Together is Dick’s first novel, written in the early 1950s but not published until 1994. An American metals company located in China is bought by the Chinese and three employees stay behind on the company’s premises in order to facilitate the transfer to the new owners.
Through flashbacks we find out Verne had a prior relationship with Barbara back in the U.S., and we learn that Carl is socially immature. He’s twenty-three but characterized more like someone closer to sixteen. It feels like a book written by someone only guessing how adult relationships work.
Cast of characters
Carl Fitter, Barbara Mahler and Verne Tildon– our three protagonists
Penny and Felix – Barbara’s friends in Castle
Don Field – Verne’s acquaintance… Teddy’s boyfriend before she jumps ship to Verne
Teddy – Verne’s girlfriend
Bill Herndon – Verne’s other passenger on the way back to NY from Castle
Jimmy Petio – Carl’s friend from summer camp when he was twelve
Harry Liu – the Chinese man who arrives to make sure everything is in order before the changeover to the new owners
Other things to know
The American Metals Development Company – aka ‘the Company’