Philip K Dick
Based on Story - Confessions of a Crap Artist
Story Version Notes
The original story, Confessions of a Crap Artist, was written in 1975, long after most of Dick's other great works were done. He moves away from space-alien-robot themes and comes into what he really has always cared about - how people relate to each other. This is a full length novel.
Lisa's Reaction to the Story Version
I really love Philip K Dick's work in general. So I really WANTED to love this book. It's 246 pages long, and usually to me it would be sheer joy to read a story of his for that many pages. I suppose you can tell by the tone of this intro that I really did NOT like this book and to be honest I would have put it down if I didn't feel obligated to finish it for this review. Well, maybe I take that back. I would have kept reading in hopes that it would have gotten better.
It's not that his WRITING was bad. The problem is caring at all about these characters he chose to portray. We begin by meeting Jack, who comes across as a really stupid jerk who thinks he has knowledge while he does unethical things. He doesn't come across as a "Forrest Gump" uneducated-but-trying person. He comes across in the same way as a "redneck bigot who bullies guys at the local bar" does. Then you meet his sister, Judy, and then Judy's husband, Charlie. Judy wants to be wild and free but is very hung up on how people perceive her and what the "proper role" is. Charlie picks up her tampons at her request and then bashes her for "degrading him" for making him do it. These people are just NOT people I want to read about.
Rolling Stone is quoted as saying "A funny, horribly accurate portrait of life in California in the 1950s". I really have to wonder what their entire review said. The stuff in this book is NOT a life of anyone I know who lived in the 1950s. If you're going to take that approach, then self-centered, shallow people have existed in all eras of life, from Biblical times to today. If you're going to read about a shallow person, there needs to be a reason why. It was just maddening to read more and more about shallow people doing stupid things to each other and making the world "worse and worse" through their self absorption.
There were tiny moments that shone through as great Philip K Dick insights, but they were soon lost in the froth of inanity that was the story. I just didn't find it fun at all to read.
Movie Version Notes
This movie is French with English subtitles.
Lisa's Reaction to the Movie Version
I saw the film Barjo first, before reading the book. At the time, I really disliked the film and thought they must have done the book an injustice. Now that I've read the book, I have more mixed feelings. Maybe film could have helped things out ...
First, of course, they moved the setting from California to France, apparently. You have to figure that from a French movie. Not a big deal, shallow, self-absorbed people exist everywhere. Jack is his detail-oriented, spaceship-believing, unable-to-connect-with-emotions brother. He makes observations and lists and never realizes how what he does might hurt others. You might say "Oh but this is a real mental condition" and I understand that. But to make someone with that lack of empathy into a total jerk who is destroying things with his obsession seems to me a disservice to people who DO have that situation and deal with it.
You have Judy and Charlie, although they ease back on the spousal abuse here. What they do NOT ease back on is the swearing. I have to point out here that the family has two young kids. So it REALLY disturbed me in both the movie and book that the parents were so mistreating the kids in general, and swearing at and around them all the time. In the book with the domestic violence it really got to the point that I was sick of reading the book and wanted to put it down. If it's a murder mystery and there's a point to it, that's one thing. To toss in violence as a "fun character device" that goes nowhere and does nothing really bothers me.
To go off on a side tangent (as I tend to do), remember that movie Dead Calm? It begins with a mom who is driving her car in a rainstorm in traffic. Her young kid in the back seat is playing with his carseat buckle and manages to unfasten it. The mom turns back to fix it, she goes headlong into a truck and the kid is shot out like a projectile through the windshield. It was a HORRIFIC scene and when I saw it, I said to myself, "They better have put this all in for a reason". But NOOOOOOOO the only reason that scene was in there was to explain why the husband and wife chose to go off on a sailboat. Did they have to be so nastily graphic about the slaying of an infant for "setup"??
So in any case. Shallow people hurt each other, have affairs, husband goes to hospital, comes home, goes insane and kills family animals and pets. Lovely. But in the end of this, the husband dies and the brother and sister go off together, with the brother caring for the sister. Heck at least SOME lesson was learned here, some "good result" came of all of this story. In the actual book version, it's even far worse. In the book, the husband dies but leaves a twisted will that sets the wife (and her lover) against the brother. They all argue, the brother thinks it won't matter because he's leaving with the aliens anyway. The aliens don't come so he abandons the house to go look for a psychiatrist, maybe. It is just completely a mess at the end, with lots of dead animals and a dead husband too. And how about the poor kids? Doesn't anybody care about them?
In general as much as I love Philip K Dick this is my LEAST favorite of all of his works. Maybe you should see it to get a flavor for his "later years", and maybe if I reread it in time I might appreciate it more. But I really doubt it.
Buy Barjo from Amazon.com
Confessions of a Crap Artist from Amazon.com
Philip K Dick Stories Made Into Movies
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K Dick Homepage