Very little action is involved in the two-day span that constitutes the plot of The Ebony Tower, the title novella in a collection with four short stories. Presented from the point of view of limited omniscience, the novella concerns the thoughts and reactions of David Williams, as he contrasts his domestic and predictable life in London with the unconventional world he encounters at Henry Breasley’s estate in France, the Manoir de Coetminais (“the forest of the monks”).
David has come to Brittany to interview Henry in preparation for writing a biographical and critical introduction to a volume of the older painter’s work. On his arrival at the secluded, fifteenth century estate, he encounters two naked young women-nicknamed the Mouse and the Freak-whose presence seems to validate the reputation of the painter, a notorious iconoclast and womanizer. After being introduced to Henry, David smugly but enviously is taken on tour of the artist’s collection of modern art. Later that evening at dinner, the two men have a serious discussion and almost an argument about contemporary art, hindered by Henry’s increasing drunkenness but aided by the Mouse’s role as interpreter for the generally inarticulate Henry. Henry abhors abstract art, the “decorative” style for which David has become moderately famous.
Helped to bed by the two women in an apparently familiar domestic ritual, Henry is repentant the next morning, and all four go on a...
(The entire section is 523 words.)