God works in mysterious and awkward ways in this sadly charming fantasy novella. What is the nature of artistic inspiration? For Alexis it follows Eliot’s prescription of the via negativa, the flight from personality and the hollowing out of the self. That this sounds much like “The Long Decline,” Alexis’s manifesto on the proper approach to literary criticism and book reviewing is, I’m sure, no accident. The presentation is brisk and fresh, but this is an idea that seems to me to be depressing in its conclusions. The God of the Word is eternally dying, and his functionaries are worn-out servants who end their lives as husks. Literature is experienced not as a passion to create or consume, but only as a tired and tiring duty, its attendant “scene” populated by poseurs and dessicated bobbleheads. Is this an allegory for finding faith, or losing it?