Prose Intro: Stoning the Devil: KWH: This Charming Lab: March 27, 2004

In Baudelaire's famous prose poem, "The Generous Gambler," we follow the narrator, ostensibly Charlie B. himself, as he encounters a mysterious stranger on a Parisian boulevard. The stranger, lo and behold, turns out to be Lucifer himself. Baudelaire depicts him as a man of wealth and taste, who has, indeed, been around for many a long year, and stolen many a man's soul and faith. Of course, Baudelaire follows him. They get regally smashed, and the Devil reveals to him the secrets of the universe. For Baudelaire, stoning the devil means getting him stoned, wooing him, bringing him into the human fold for a little Dionysian sport. The problem with the Baudelairian method of Satan-handling is that you lose your soul. The Devil corrupts you to the point that right and wrong have no meaning; irony enters the blood and chills it; paradox becomes poison; everybody looks like a leper; and you can't feel anything. It helps to remember our good old read-it-in-seventh-grade friend Young Goodman Brown. His encounter with Beelzebub leaves him embittered, disenchanted, but at least he still has a soul (or, as much of a soul as a tee-totaling Puritan can have). Young Goodman Brown stones the devil by rejecting him out of hand. Stoning here means throwing stones: even if it be from the glass house of mortal ignorance.

So, somewhere between the Baudelairian and Hawthornian models of Lucifer-human relations, we may find an ideal solution. We can lure the Devil into drunkenness and then bash him over the head with a rock, or we can bash him over the head with a rock and then slip him a joint to ease the pain (mostly our pain, of course). The Devil, the epitome of imperviousness, will go on being the great professional Ironist he is (a bit like Frank Zappa). The reward of this balanced approach for us, as writers, is that we can lure the Devil close to us, just close enough to learn some of his simpler tricks, then send him on his way when he starts demanding blood. Muslims the world over "stone the Devil," but I fear their ritual lacks a certain subtlety and understanding of Satanic grandeur- how it can be harnessed, refined, made to serve human ends. The Devil, more than any other Being, understands the complexity of existence. I would guess that things are as complicated in Hell as they are here. In the end, what is a art but a testament to the complexity of life: manifold levels and layers, perpetually enclosing us in a wide web. One could make the argument that art is essentially ironic, in the sense that it posits unreachable worlds that we long for, but cannot touch. We must face it: art is a Devil's game. We're here to play, and we guarantee you it will be more fun than Yahtzee.