Part of R. A. Lafferty’s charm is that he defies analysis. The defiance is deliberate: Every time an explanation looms on the horizon, his determination is to subvert it, and every time a plot threatens to crystallize out of his narrative, he changes the dramatis personae and cuts the story adrift again. It is entirely appropriate that he should represent The Devil Is Dead as the centerpiece of a trilogy called the Argos Mythos, whose first volume, Archipelago (1979), was not published until eight years later and whose third volume never appeared (after all, only regular people believe in climaxes). The contents of that proposed volume appeared in three Canadian chapbooks: Promontory Goats (1988), How Many Miles to Babylon? (1989), and Episodes of the Argo (1990).
In Archipelago, it is alleged that Finnegan is really Jason, whose modern career echoes the quest of the Argonauts, but he obviously is many other people as well. In The Devil Is Dead, he frequently is called Finn, presumably in order to link him to Finn MacCool, a hero of Irish folklore. He is a Neanderthal man in a world in which Neanderthal men are extinct, blandly refusing to notice that his world ended long ago. Lafferty’s work is full of such entities: men who are dead, or never lived, but who simply will not lie down or go away; and worlds that have been superseded, or never existed, but continue to intrude upon...
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