Reviews of Confessions of a Crap Artist (1975)
Review by ropie (2008-08-26)
Jack Isodore, a strange young man with a penchant for listing scientific information, goes to live with his controlling sister and her family when he finds himself unable to provide for himself anymore. 'Confessions of a Crap Artist' is a "straight" Philip K Dick novel set on an isolated farm in 1950s California. That said, the reader will still find elements of UFOs, end-of-the-world prophecy and near-death experiences made tangible, so don't expect 'The Darling Buds of May' here. Actually written in 1959, it wasn't published until 1975 and reads like a slice-of-life of small town America of the mid 20th Century.
One of the interesting things about the book is that it is largely character driven. Whereas Dick often sets up a situation and lets his characters flail about within its vortex, here he concentrates on probing the minds of the four main characters by dedicating each chapter to the first-person voice of one of them, with the occasional narrated chapter interspersed. Sometimes the chapters overlap and we see the same situation from a different viewpoint (a technique Dick would employ to great effect in later novels).
The story is consistently interesting and, unusually for Dick, well structured and well-written. All of the major characters will endear themselves to you in some way and he does a good job of displaying their strong and weak sides without getting trite.
If you like this character driven one-voice-per-chapter presentation then also try Robert Silverberg's 'Book of Skulls' (there are bound to be many others also).
(This review refers to the 1975 version titled “Confessions of a Crap Artist”)