Theme: Mainstream

Confessions of a Crap Artist published 1975

“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
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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

Puttering About in a Small Land published 1985

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.

Puttering About in a Small Land
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Dick often borrowed from his other mainstream books, probably raiding them for ideas since they had remained unpublished.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 published 1994

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.

Gather Yourselves Together
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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’
  • Castle – a resort town up the coast from Boston
  • The Walker Club – a jazz club in NY
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