I am not a big science fiction fan, though I was lucky and the several sci-fi classics I read were brilliant books indeed. Because of that, the only other book by Dick I read was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I came across this one while at my family home, as usual, I finished the book I brought with me and merrily went to explore my mum’s library. What I didn’t know was that Confessions of a Crap Artist was the only non-sci-fi book that Dick managed to publish during his life. Apparently, during the 1950s he wrote several non-genre novels.
Our main character and the part-time narrator is Jack Isidore. A man completely unadjusted to living in a society. Jack is interested in all things weird and esoteric, he claims he is doing scientific research, cannot hold a job for long and finally gets arrested for shoplifting. At that point, his sister Fay decides he cannot live alone anymore and with her husband, Charley takes him to their ranch.
Jack gets along with the children and animals perfectly fine. Gradually becoming the main caretaker, cook and household help in the ranch, as his sister happily disengages herself from the daily chores. Initially Fay and Charley look like a happy family, the ranch, the children, but it’s enough to scratch the surface to find tensions simmering. As in every chapter the narrators change to another character we get to know their inner thoughts and perspectives. Clearly, not only Jack is bonkers in this family.
As Fay’s and Charley’s marriage dissolves, Jack conducts his research by observing them and noting everything down. He also becomes a part of a local church believing that the end of the world is imminent. And so merrily we hop along with the crazy plot to the imminent conflict, that gets dramatically resolved.
It is not a brilliant book, but still an interesting one. We can clearly see that Dick often sides with Jack’s perspective, even though it feels completely disconnected from reality. Which brings the main question: how real is the reality, how important is it? What if we all agree to ignore it or interpret it in our own way? Why do we think some people are normal and others are not? Are the ‘normal’ ones really better? The questions are only subtly raised, but they make you think.