Fascinating lists!

Friday, May 6, 2016

“The Apple” as a Mirror of the Soul

Copyright 2016 by Gary Pullman

H. G. Wells' short story, “The Apple,” starts with the declaration of “the man in the corner of the carriage” that he must “get rid of it.”

His fellow passenger in the train's third-class coach, Mr. Hinchcliff, is a recent graduate of London College, on his way to his “newly-gained pedagogic position” as the “junior assistant at the Holmwood Grammar School.” Hinchcliff does not seem to want to converse with the stranger. In an apparent effort to engage his reluctant companion, the man speaks aloud to himself, thrice repeating the question, “Why not give it away?” When, at last, he succeeds in eliciting not a reply, but a cough, from Hinchcliff, the man seems encouraged enough to repeat himself yet again: “'Yes,' he said slowly. 'Why not?,'” adding, “And end it.”

Wells' narrator suggests the reason that Hinchcliff is reluctant to enter a conversation with the stranger. The recent graduate has been “in the rapt contemplation of” his “college cap. . . —the outward and visible sign of his newly-gained pedagogic position,” which he regards as “a very enviable position.” Wells' characterization of Hinchcliff suggests that the junior assistant is a bit smug; he considers his “newly-gained pedagogic position” not as a boon for which to be grateful or as a position of responsibility to be regarded with humility, but as something which is likely to cause envy among others; it is an “enviable position.” Subsequent characterizations will underscore the protagonist's self-centeredness, or, in Biblical terms, the “pride” that “goeth before a fall.”

Hinchcliff's companion claims to have purchased an actual fruit descended from that of the Biblical Tree of Knowledge itself, acquiring the miraculous fruit—the “apple” of the story's title—for no more than “a drink of water and a crust of bread,” payment which may suggest a parsimony of the soul as much as a fiscal miserliness. Although the fruit is referred to as an “apple,” it is nothing of the sort, the stranger points out. It is, in fact, a miraculous fruit such as none but Adam and Eve and the stranger—and the man from whom the stranger bought the fruit— and, now, Hinchcliff himself, as well, of course—have ever seen. After three months, the “small, very smooth, golden-yellow fruit” remains as “bright and smooth and ripe and desirable” as ever. Indeed, the fruit seems to glow from within, “as if light itself was wrought into its substance,” and, as the stranger has learned and as Hinchcliff will discover, it can cause one to have visions.

The stranger obtained the fruit from an Armenian who, with others, fled the Kurds intent upon torturing and killing them. Seeking to escape death at the hands of their merciless foes, he and the others sought refuge in the mountains, crashing through shoulder-high grass that, cutting them, drew blood, as if the blades of grass were “knife-blades.” The Armenian separated from the others, stumbling into a garden of “dwarfed trees” guarded by a fiery figure. The numinous quality of the archangel filled the Armenian with awe, and he fled the scene. In doing so, he stumbled against a “stunted” bush, “and a ripe fruit came off it into his hand.” It was this same fruit that the stranger purchased for “a drink of water and a crust of bread,” after the terrified man had returned to his village, where the stranger and “others were attending the wounded.” According to local legend, the stranger tells Hinchcliff, “those thickets of dwarfed trees growing in the garden sprang from the [half-eaten] apple that Adam . . . . flung . . . aside.”

Hinchcliff is skeptical of the story, until, in studying the apple, he himself has a vision of the garden in which the Armenian obtained the fruit. As Hinchcliff stares at “the strange-looking fruit” of “a curious glowing colour,” he begins “to see more vividly the desolate valley among the mountains, the guarding swords of fire, the strange antiquities of the story had just heard,” and, slowly, he also becomes convinced that the apple truly is one of the offspring of Adam's half-eaten fruit, which prompts him to ask his companion why he does not eat it. He “took it intending to eat it,” the stranger admits, but reflection has given him pause. His “heart has failed him,” he tells Hinchcliff, each time he has been tempted to eat the apple, for fear of learning, if he does so, what he might learn of “fallen” man, coming to know with “terrible lucidity” the nature of human beings. He has resisted the temptation because he is afraid that “all the world” might become “pitilessly clear” and he would know what is in “the hearts and minds of every one,” seeing “into their most secret recesses,” and not only those of strangers, but also “people you loved, whose love you valued” and, worse yet, “know oneself,” stripping away “your most intimate illusions” and seeing “yourself in your place,” with “all your lusts and weaknesses prevented your doing.” Such a vision of oneself, he fears, would be “no merciful perspective.” By eating of the forbidden fruit, the stranger suggests, one would see oneself as God sees one, and such a vision would likely be a terrible sight to behold.

“If you don't care to eat it, and it bothers you, why don't you throw it away?” Hinchcliff asks. “There again, perhaps you will not understand me,” the stranger replies. “To me, how could one throw away a thing like that, glowing, wonderful? Once one has it, one is bound.”

Their theological and psychological reflections end when Hinchcliff catches sight of the railway station and “the end of a white board black-lettered outside the carriage-window. '—MWOOD,'” and realizes that the train has arrived at his destination. As if reality has reasserted itself, dispelling the legend of the hidden Garden of Eden and its miraculous, forbidden fruit, Hinchcliff hastily departs the carriage, “instinctively” accepting the apple the stranger hands him, having decided that it might be wise to give such a fruit to a man like Hinchcliff, “who thirsted after knowledge” and was too young and inexperienced in life, to find “terror in the thought of that clear perception” which would ensue from the eating of the fruit—the same knowledge that Adam and Eve obtained, at such great cost, the same knowledge of good and evil that is God's. (As soon as he gives it away, however, the stranger tries to recover it, although without success.)

Hinchcliff, not realizing he has taken the fruit, is concerned about his persona and his reputation, now that he has arrived in Holmwood, where he will begin his career. His thoughts are upon himself, showing, again, his self-centeredness, or pride: upon becoming “aware that two or three people on the platform were regarding him with interest,” Hinchcliff is concerned with making a good first impression as “the new Grammar School master making his debut.”

He does not want to appear to be unsophisticated, and “it occurred to him that, so far as they could tell, the fruit might very well be the naive refreshment of an orange.” Embarrassed, “he thrust the fruit into his side pocket, where it bulged undesirably,” making him “painfully aware of his contour.”

Gone are all thoughts of the supernatural. What silliness, he seems to think, “the glamour of the story” he'd been told. “Fires that went to and fro!” His “immediate concerns” drive away such fancies as if they were mere “mists,” and he becomes absorbed, once more, in himself, as “the preoccupation of his new position, and the impression he was likely to produce upon Holmwood generally, and the school people in particular, returned upon him with reinvigorating power before he left the station and cleared his mental atmosphere.” The fruit, which he has considered miraculous in the train, he now finds, in the station, to be merely “an inconvenient thing.”

He dreads being thought ridiculous, especially by the boys who are to be his new charges. How could he maintain discipline if his students saw his “face sticky” with the juice of the fruit or his cuffs discolored by it? Likewise, the sight of a group of girls alarms him, as he thinks, “at any moment they might look round and see a hot-faced young man behind them carrying a kind of phosphorescent yellow tomato! They would be sure to laugh,” and his dignity would be forever lost. Terrified at such prospects, Hinchcliff tosses the apple over “the stone wall of an orchard,” but, seeing, in his dream that night “the valley, and the flaming swords, and the contorted trees, he knew that it really was the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge that he had thrown regardlessly away,” and he awakens “unhappy,” seeking to recover the discarded fruit, only to find it gone.

The fallen nature of man, Wells' story suggests, is his pride, or narcissistic self-concern, which causes him to be concerned with what others think. A self-absorbed individual, Hinchcliff's behavior indicates, always feels himself to be judged by others and is unduly concerned with their opinion of him. His regard for what others think, stemming from his own concern with himself, with his making a good first impression, with his maintaining his dignity, with his protecting his reputation among the members of his community and his profession, are effects of this pride, as is Hinchcliff's initial willingness to discard a divine miracle simply for fear of being seen as foolish. Of course, some might contend, this theme has application, as well, to those who would conceal their faith from others to avoid the censure of their peers, rather than, as the Bible counsels, shouting it from the housetops.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

“The Triumph of a Taxidermist”: H. G. Wells' Triumphant Use of Humor and Wit

Copyright 2016 by Gary Pullman

The Triumphs of aTaxidermist” is an example of H. G. Wells' wry sense of humor. The story starts with the promise of secrets to be divulged. The secret sharer is a person with insider knowledge: a taxidermist. Although he has drunk several glasses of whiskey and “is no longer cautious,” he is not intoxicated. Therefore, his revelations are credible.

The taxidermist seems to represent fraudulence in general. Indeed, fraudulence, Bellows, the first-person narrator, intimates, is the basis for several professions, including not only taxidermy, but also religion, science, commerce, and the media.

Remarkable for his odd, rather flamboyant, dress—“sandals” which seem to be “the holey relics of a pair of carpet slippers,” a “most horrible yellow plaid” pair of trousers, a coat that is “chiefly grease upon a basis of velveteen—and for his appearance in general—black hair, a “rosy” face, an eye of “fiery brown,” “spectacles. . . always askew,” the lenses of which shrink the size of one “small and penetrating” eye while magnifying and obscuring the other—the eccentric taxidermist tells tales even more colorful than his pipe's “bowl of china showing the Graces.” Equally showman and raconteur, he is not dissimilar, perhaps, to the famous P. T. Barnum.

With equanimity. he boasts, “There never was a man who could stuff like me,” informing Bellows that he has “stuffed elephants . . . moths,” and even “human beings—chiefly ornithologists.” He made one man into a hat-rack, he says, “with all his fingers out,” to serve as pegs. It is clear that the taxidermist has no regard for the humanity of human beings, treating them in accordance with his view of them as mere objects.

The same disregard for humanity is seen also in the taxidermist's visions for the future increased profitability of his art, one of which is legal, if unseemly, rather than fraudulent: “Seems to me taxidermy is a promising third course to burial or cremation,” which would allow the survivors of the dearly departed to “keep all” their “loved ones” close by, like other “bric-a-brac.” Indeed, deceased relatives, properly stuffed, would be “good as most company and much less expensive.” They could be “fitted up with clockwork” and function, like automatons, as servants. In addition, one could “talk to them without interruption.” (His prediction, alas, has come true, at least in regard to some people who have had their deceased pets freeze-dried so as to extend, indefinitely, their canine or feline companionship.)

Although Bellows seldom records his own words, his speech, mostly questions, can be inferred from the taxidermist's replies; in fact, the latter's responses often begin with his quotation of Bellows' own remarks or queries: “No, there is no law against it,” he assures Bellows, regarding the stuffing of human beings; “Unpleasant?” he repeats, when Bellows suggests his human hat-rack was rather beastly. “I don't see it. . . .” “Enrich the universe; rath-er,” he agrees with Bellow's perhaps tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the taxidermist's work has improved the world. Bellows' suppression of his own comments focuses the reader's attention more or less entirely upon the taxidermist and his statements.

Perhaps as he continues to drink his whiskey, the taxidermist feels emboldened, for he next confesses to Bellows that he has committed fraud in making alleged specimens of dodos and a great auk, the latter created with the use of “grebes' feathers and the like.” Apparently, he is not the only taxidermist to have done so, for, he advises Bellows, “half the great auks in the world are about as genuine as the handkerchief of Saint Veronica” or “the Holy Coat of Treves.” His allusion to the Church's holy relics suggests that this venerated institution is not itself above the use of fraudulent artifacts to promote its purposes. Like his own art, the work of the Church is bolstered by dishonest devices. The taxidermist's chicanery doesn't end with his creation of auks: he also makes their eggs, fashioning them, he reveals, “out of fine porcelain,” a confession that effects a rare recorded response from Bellows: “Good heavens!”

When asked which of the “genuine great auks” was made by his host, the taxidermist tells Bellows, “You must study ornithology, and find out which it is yourself.” His next project, he confides, is to create a dinoris, or moa, despite the fact that, as the origin of the moa's name itself suggests, such creatures no longer exist: “”'Moa' is its common name, so-called because extinct; there is no moa now. See?” The bird's extinction aside, he intends to “forge a complete stuffed moa,” sans skeleton, since “there is no need to make any bones about it.” “A chap,” he says, has ordered the moa so that he can pretend to discover it “in a kind of antiseptic swamp,” undertaking to have the specimen “stuffed. . . . at once,” lest it “fall to pieces.”

The taxidermist takes pride in his art, even if it does involve dupery: “The feathers” of the artificial moa “are peculiar, but I have . . . a simply lovely way of dodging up singed bits of ostrich plume. Yes, that is the new smell you noticed. They can only discover the fraud with a microscope, and they will hardly care to pull a nice specimen to bits for that.” The taxidermist's own fraud will be the basis of the alleged discoverer's perpetuation of his own fraud. Fraud builds upon fraud, whether in taxidermy or in the Church—or, for that matter, science or commerce. As the taxidermist himself admits, “In this way, you see, I give my little push in the advancement of science.”

The false auk eggs, the taxidermist says, sell for a good sum: “They fetch—one fetched £300 only the other day,” and “what is more,” he confides, “I have been approached by a syndicate of dealers to stock one of the unexplored skeries [rocks] to the north of Iceland with specimens.”

Indeed, his art does not merely imitate “Nature,” but surpasses its accomplishments. The taxidermist has created entirely “new birds” which represent “improvements” upon those which nature has created—a remark which is all the more ironic since his birds are not only fake but inanimate, rather than authentic and living, specimens.

To make his birds, he has had to gather materials from several existing birds, and, at times, his work proves clumsy and undignified. For example, his Anomalopteryx Jejunis-a-um (a parody, due to its absurdity, it seems, of taxonomy's seemingly pretensions use of binomial nomenclature) was “empty” but for its “stuffing” and “has all the clumsiness of your pelican,” coupled with “all the solemn want of dignity of your parrot, all the gaunt ungainliness of a flamingo,” and “all the extravagant chromatic conflict of a mandarin duck.” Like any other artist, the taxidermist can create nothing new or truly original. All his creations are but hybrids of other, actual creatures, a critical jibe, perhaps, by Wells, concerning the nature of both the artist's imagination and the creative process itself. “I made it out of the skeletons of a stork and a toucan and a job lot of feathers,” and represents “just pure joy . . . to a real artist in the art,” such as himself.

His inspiration for the Anomalopteryx Jejunis-a-um (which sounds suspiciously like a name the taxidermist simply made up, just as he simply makes up his specimens) was itself a bit of fraudulence, albeit unintentional. A science writer confused references in “a German pamphlet” to “a living apteryx” with “the extinct anomalopteryx,” the taxidermist explains, mistakenly translating the passage accordingly, and thus interested Javvers, a collector, in acquiring a specimen of the non-existent bird. To this end, Javvers “raided the dealers with inquiries,” and, despite the bird's non-existence, succeeded in obtaining one, the suggestion being that the dealers bought a made-to-order specimen from the taxidermist or one of his equally unscrupulous colleagues.

The taxidermist relates how he also once created “a most attractive mermaid,” which was acquired by “an itinerant preacher,” who subsequently destroyed it “at Burslem Wakes” (that is, at the religious festivals celebrating the saints to whom local churches were dedicated), not because he regretted his possibly lascivious thoughts regarding the half-woman, half-fish hybrid, but because, when it prevented him from getting “an audience,” he understood it to be a thing of “idolatry.”

The narrator suggests that the media is as fraudulent as taxidermy, religion, science, and commerce. The press, after all, authenticates and publicizes the taxidermist''s chicanery. Lest readers fear that the taxidermist's confession is dubious, Bellows assures them that “I find that he has the confirmation of distinguished ornithological writers. And the note about the New Zealand bird certainly appeared in a morning paper of unblemished reputation, for the taxidermist keeps a copy and has shown it to me.”

Wells' humor results in his intimations, throughout his tale, of the chicanery that suffuses taxidermy, religion, science, commerce, and the media, but it also derives from the candor of the fraudulent taxidermist who finds “joy” in duping the public and in profiting from the perversion of his art. In addition, the gullibility of the public, implicit in the taxidermist's fraudulence by virtue of their uncritical acceptance of the authenticity of the ludicrous specimens that he and his colleagues create, often at the demand of scientists, adventurers, and collectors, enriches the story's irony, satirizing the folly of the several groups of people who ought to know better but are more concerned with acclaim, prestige, snobbery, prurience, and profit than they are with the truth. Finally, “The Triumphs ofthe Taxidermist” demonstrates that H. G. Wells, who is known more for fantasy and science fiction than for humor, is a witty writer, indeed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Devilish Delights” Straddling the Line between the Marvelous and the Uncanny

by Gary Pullman

NOTE: Leigh Paul's erotic short story, “Devilish Delights,” is available on Amazon.com.

In “Devilish Delights,” Leigh Paul gives a twist to the dichotomous polarities of the marvelous and the uncanny, as these opposites are defined by philosopher-cum-literary critic Tzvetan Todorov.

According to Todorov, a narrative is marvelous if its strange events are explicable only in therms of the supernatural, whereas the story is uncanny inf its bizarre occurrences can be explained with recourse to natural, if unusual, causes. For example, Stephen King's short story “1408” is a marvelous narrative, because the hotel room in which Mike Enslin spends the night is, indeed, haunted by ghosts. On the other hand, H. G. Wells' short story “The Red Room,” upon which King's story seems to have been ironically modeled, is a tale of the uncanny, because its apparent ghost proves to be nothing more than fear fueled by the human imagination, a natural enough phenomenon, despite the terror of the narrator who spends the night in the castle's supposedly haunted room.

The question before the reader who seeks to determine whether a narrative should be categorized as marvelous or as uncanny is, Is a supernatural force or agent truly the cause of the story's event?

Of course, such stories as King's “1408,” Wells' “The Red Room,” Paul's “Devilish Delights,” and a good many others depend upon the fine line between the natural world (that is, the universe) and the supernatural world (anything that transcends nature, or the universe). Like other such stories, “Devilish Delights” straddles these dichotomies. Whether it is marvelous or uncanny depends upon the reader's interpretation, but the tale provides some clues, one might say, which suggest one answer, perhaps, more strongly than the alternative response.

The possibility of the supernatural occurs at the outset of the story, when the protagonist, Laura Chambers, announces to the nude model, Todd Drake, that he is “the devil.” She doesn't explain that she has hired him to pose as the devil; rather, she states, unequivocally, that he is the devil. Moreover, in introducing the topic of the tarot deck, she tells him that the cards “have been used since the fifteenth century, both to play games and to predict the future.” She appears, in these statements, to take seriously the possibility that there are beings, such as the devil, and methods of divination, such as the tarot deck, both of which presuppose a supernatural dimension of reality. When Todd asks her whether she is “kidding” him, she insists, “I'm not” (1). Moreover, she confesses, “I find, as an artist, my models often project the energy and, sometimes, the spirit of the person, place, or thing they represent” (2).

It is apparent that she has studied the occult, because she tells Todd, “According to mystics, the devil symbolizes” specific personality traits, both negative and positive (2). At no time during her introduction of the topics of the devil, the tarot, or the “mystics associated with the tarot” does she indicate that she regards these topics of anything less than supernatural (1).

In viewing him, as she paints him, she thinks of him as a devilish figure whose thoughts are deep” and “dark” (4), thus revealing her own ideas concerning his nature; it is she, after all, who conceives of him in the terms she uses; they are her words, reflective of her thoughts. She even sees his “eyebrows” as arching “devilishly, like unfurled wings” (4). Is Todd truly a devil, or does she merely see him as “devilish”? If the former possibility is true, the story is marvelous. If the latter is the case, the story is uncanny. At this point, either interpretation is defensible, but, of course, Pauls' tale is, by no means, completed.

As she paints his likeness, Laura seems to become more and more strongly attracted to her model. Most of her attraction is physical, although she pays attention, also, to Todd's personality, as she perceives it, at least, as it discloses itself to her through is facial features. “In addition to his fantastic physique,” she admires his “secret humor,” which, it seems to her, indicates that he entertains “wry thoughts” best kept to himself and suggest that he is “a man who knew secrets” (4). Although she tries hard to concentrate on her work, Laura is often distracted by Todd's good looks and devilish demeanor. Is his presence having a supernatural effect upon her, or are her own thoughts about him responsible for her inability to focus?

Her thoughts become increasingly lascivious, focusing upon his sexuality and his virility: “Partly his appeal was physical, partly it was sexual—he's a strong virile man—but part of it was the strange air of mystery surrounding him” (5-6), Laura declares. “Like the tarot deck's devil, he exuded an aura of secret knowledge” (6). What explains her increasingly erotic interest in her model? Todd himself? Her thoughts of him? Another possibility is that he uses supernatural powers to enchant the artist.

She becomes obsessed, it seems, with capturing his likeness on her canvas, which may represent an attempt to capture his spirit as well, to freeze him, as it were, once and for all time, as a painted image, timeless and eternally her own. It is possible that, through her art, she seeks not only to capture his likeness, but to preserve his spirit, showing him as he appears to her, not just at the moment she paints him, but for all time. If so, she wants to capture and preserve not only his physical, but also his sexual, essence; it is this essence that she seeks to possess in paint, on canvas, but these qualities, at the same time, seem to evade her:

. . . I paintedand repaintedThe Devil himself.

The results were disappointing, to say the least. What's wrong? I shook my head, unable to put my finger on it. No matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work. I just couldn't bring to life, on the canvas, my vision of Todd. In the flesh, he's handsome as hell, but it's more than just his wavy, jet-black hair, his piercing blue eyes, and his sensuous lips. It's more than his well-conditioned, athletic physique, too. Virility emanates from him. Erotic passion oozes from his every pore. His least movement, his smile, his sheer presence commands attention. The figure I'd painted was a dull imitation, almost a parody, of the real deal (9).

Todd is as attracted to Laura as she is to him, and they end up in the studio's bed, where Laura's lovemaking skills soon show her that the mysterious model, despite his apparently supernatural attributes, is a man of flesh and blood, after all: “ I smiled. What a different picture he'd make if I painted him the way he looks now. He wouldn't appear as much devilish as stricken (12-13). His stoic resolve rapidly eroding, it was clear the man of stone was flesh and blood, after all” (13). Sex, the great equalizer between men and women, has brought Todd down to earth, cut him down to size, as it were, rendered him human, or natural, rather than demonic, or supernatural. Or so it seems to her in her moment of triumph.

However, as she soon learns, “The Devil wasn't about to let” her “off so easily,” and he exhibits such passion and stamina that she, again, thinks of him as a demon: “He has the endurance of a stallion—or a fiend. Never have I been with a man with the stamina this one has. Maybe Todd really is a demon—a sex demon” (18). The possibility of reading the story as an example of the marvelous remains, as does the possibility of interpreting it as a specimen of uncanny fiction. Masterfully, Paul continues to allow both interpretations.

For example, it is only after they make love that Laura is able to capture the essence of her model. Indeed, in doing so, she chooses colors which convey the colors of his flesh, including that of its most intimate parts.

For much of the story, Laura has characterized Todd as being her “muse,” alluding to the supernatural beings who, according to mythology, inspire artists. (Indeed, the word “demon,” or “daemon,” meant, in ancient Greece, a supernatural being whose nature was half-human and half-divine.) In painting him, she has done so without conscious thought, she says—that is, by inspiration—capturing her vision of him on her canvas:

Mostly, I painted Todd. Without conscious thought, I applied yellows, oranges, reds, and whites to his rock-hard chest, his rippling abs, his sinewy thighs, his muscular arms, and to the centerpiece of my portrait, the massive obelisk of his straining erection, creating the image of a fallen angel, a messenger from God, whose message of love had been perverted into a message of lust (19).

It is she, not he himself, who is responsible for his demonic nature, for she created him in her own image.

However, she now suggests that it is her painting, her talent, which has made a “fallen angel” of Todd: “ The man of flesh had become, in my painting, a being more than mortal, whose abode transcended this world and led to a place where some angels might well fear to tread” (19).

Her conflicted idea as to what cause, demonic inspiration or her own artistic vision, seems to represent artists' confusion as to the creative process. According to many painters and other artists, the creative act, on one hand, seems to be imposed upon the artist from without, while, on the other hand, it seems to arise from within. Laura appears to have the same dualistic perception as to the nature of the creative act, which may explain why she regards Todd as being both a supernatural being, her muse, and a human being, a handsome, but purely natural, model. This confusion is expressed, it seems, in her thought that “finally, the figure I'd brought to life on my canvas was the fiery, radiant emissary of passion I'd envisioned but could not, until now, bring to life on my canvas” (19).

Once the painting is painted, Laura and Todd celebrate by making love again. This time, however, their lovemaking is not nearly as protracted, and Laura does not describe it at length or in as poetic a fashion as she did when detailing her first tryst with her model. At the point of her climax, Laura sees the colors in which she had painted her “devil,” but, it is clear that, in her mind, it is she who painted him, and not some mystical force or other power working through her. Indeed, at the end of the story, it is clear that Todd is a man, not a demon. Moreover, he is a man who belongs to Laura, and it is from his masculine qualities as a man that she draws her inspiration:

As other artists have their spouses or lovers as their muses, I have my Todd. It is from his manliness and his sheer physicality that I draw my inspiration. As long as we're together, a man of virility and sensuality is my muse, the spirit whose passion breathes life into my work. In painting Todd, I cannot paint anything but masterpieces. He is the secret of my success, my fire, my vision, my trump card (23).

In asking his advice as to the theme for her next commissioned work of art, a triptych, she calls Todd “a devil” because of the “naughty suggestion” he makes (24), but it is clear that, in doing so, she means it merely as an expression, not a statement of fact.

The story is one of the uncanny, not the marvelous, its uncanny quality coming from the confused state of mind that often accompanies the creative act, as one creates through such unconscious impulses as convergent and divergent thinking, imaginative synthesis, insight, and conceptual blending, which happens in a non-linear, non-sequential, recurrent, reflexive fashion that sometimes seems external to the self, but is the work of the mind, nevertheless. In her maintenance, until the end of her story, of the tension between the apparent possibility of two opposing accounts of the causes of the same occurrence—artistic inspiration—as being either supernatural (and, therefore, marvelous) or natural (and, therefore, uncanny), Paul shows herself to be as skilled an artist as King or Wells—and a whole lot more erotic.

NOTE: Leigh Paul's erotic short story, “Devilish Delights,” is available on Amazon.com or The Wild Rose Press website.