And they also tell the story
of Papadiabolous the Devil and his company, and of two of the hidden lives of Finnegan; and how it is not always serious to die, the first time it happens.
Here is one man who was buried twice and now lies still (but uneasy of mind) in his two separate graves. Here is another man who died twice—not at all the same thing. And here are several who are disinclined to stay dead: they don’t like it, they won’t accept it.
Given here, for the first time anywhere, are the bearings and correct location of the Terrestrial Paradise down to the last second of longitude. You may follow them. You may go there.
Here also will be found the full account of where the Devil himself is buried, and the surprising name that is on his tombstone boldly spelled out. And much else.
We will not lie to you. This is a do-it –yourself thriller or nightmare. Its present order is only the way it comes in the box. Arrange it as you will.
Set off the devils and the monsters, the wonderful beauties and the foul murderers, the ships and the oceans of middle space, the corpses and the revenants, set them off in whatever apposition you wish. Glance quickly to discover whether you have not the mark on your own left wrist, barely under the skin. Build with these colored blocks your own dramas of love and death and degradation. Learn the true topography: the monstrous and wonderful archetypes are not inside you, not in your own unconsciousness; you are inside them, trapped and howling to get out.
Build things with this as with an old structo set. Here is the Devil Himself with his several faces. Here is an ogress, and a mermaid, both of them passing as ordinary women to the sightless. Here is a body which you yourself may bury in the sand. Here is the mark of the false octopus that has either seven or nine tentacles. Here is the shock when the very dead man that you helped bury continues on his way as a very live man, and looks at you as though he knows something that you do not. Here is a suitcase with 36,000 pieces of very special paper in it. Here is Mr. X, and a left-footed killer who follows and follows. Here are those of a different flesh; and may you yourself not be of that different flesh?
Put the nightmare together. If you do not wake up screaming, you have not put it together well.
Old Burton urged his subscribers to keep their copies of the Nights under lock and key. There are such precipices here! Take it in full health and do not look down as you go. If you look down you will fall and be lost forever.
Is that not an odd introduction? I don’t understand it at all.
This is the introduction to R. A. Lafferty‘s The Devil is Dead, and it just gets stranger as it goes along.
I read this when I was in high school. I am appreciating his high flying prose even more now that I have read Pynchon and Barth. Lafferty’s love of language and oral and common storytelling traditions shines throughout this odd little novel. It is like he is sitting across a campfire telling you a wild tale of the night.