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LONG DID I HESITATE before publishing this Thorntree; for I am no champion of ugliness, and it has always seemed a mark to me against modernity, that it knows nothing more “serious” in art than the brutal. And yet, as I have noted elsewhere—to write about modernity, without writing ugliness, does not seem possible

What is this book, if not the spiritual denunciation of a time—of our time? If my Shepherd is a “flight,” then Thorntree is surely a “fight,” to borrow a dichotomy from our dear scientists, who look at man but see only beast. This, then, is a book thrown at everyone who has come to view the world in a modern, scientistic way, and who in consequence has forgotten how to see past his own—snout. Yet it is much to be feared that precisely such a one as that will find little in this book to comprehend or to appreciate. And it is in bad taste to write for the blind.
      I will therefore go against all good sense and against the competent advice which is offered to me from all parts, and I will warn my reader—against purchasing this book. For I much fear that this is one of those inherently problematic books which is written for the few, despite being “available” to the many. The story here is dark (though the keen eared will hear in it—what—not—laughter?), and the protagonist, one Samuel Thornfield, is surely not the kind of man one would care to “hang out with.” Who will find anything in this character “identify with,” as seems so preciously important to the consumers of books these days? Oh, he is an anti-hero, this Samuel Thornfield. Not, to be sure, in the still quite spiritually tame and flattering and, one is even tempted to say, optimistic way of a Bukowski, a Holden Caulfield, a Kerouac, a Hunter S. Thompson, nor any of the other slew of “nihilistic” characters to pop up mold-like in our diseased age. He is the “genuine thing,” this Samuel Thornfield; and that, as all real “authenticity,” has something harsh and exclusive about it.
      Well? All of this is vague; and the reader—supposing he, from whatever obscure motive, has determined to ignore my warning—would like to know what he is buying. Then I shall put it to the quick: Thorntree is a retelling of Faust. It seemed to me that our “Faustian civilization” is in need of a renewal of one of its founding legends; it seemed to me we are in need of a “Faust for our time.” Only that “Faust” in “our time” is a contradictio in terminis. That makes for trouble, that makes for tension. This book sprang out of just such a contradictio; this book itself in every sense is a contradictio
      It appeared to me from the first that there could only be two forms that such a “Faust” might take in our day. The first was that man who seeks to barter his better nature on the power produced by technology, and who seeks therein a degree of “magic,” a degree of longevity, perhaps even immortality, perhaps even something “godlike.” And that is tempting material indeed for a novelist. Only that, for any number of personal or philosophical reasons, some good, some bad, I would not flatter our technocrats by giving them the benefit of art.
      That leaves but a single possibility: Faust as Mann made him; Faust as artist. And I will ask you, my good Reader, in lieu of preface, what form you think Faust of such a kind could possibly take in our essentially unaesthetic day?
      Here is what I have made of him—not, to be sure, without a degree of “experience” to bolster my claims. For I have known several such “Fausts” in my time; I have seen what our day and time does to such “Fausts.” To be sure, in this book I have taken such liberties as are or ought to be permitted to novelists—but the pith and substance comes only from what I have seen in my days in this world with my own eyes, the fate that I have seen befalling the best of my generation. This book is therefore an “exposé”—to exploit a little of that racy journalese which is so very beloved by my compeers in the “writing industry.”
      But this book, I hope it goes without saying, is more still than a mere exposé. It is in fact a call to something higher— It is the limpid voice of the stars themselves, whose voices reach our ears but enfeebled from beyond this smoggy dust-clogged sky— It is the darkness as the means to light