Preface to the First Edition

Being an old and broken man, and having lived as deeply and ruggedly as I have, whenever I lay down to sleep, I often figure it to be my last. I have reconciled myself to this with no regrets, save one: that I never told the story of Charles B. Jones. There upon the verge of sleep, my memories of him often gather together into a ghost. And all those adventures and conversations we once had come crowding back like children around a long lost father as his ghostly form steps out onto the interior stage of my skull. I have often startled myself from this vestibule before sleep with a surprised laughter to see and hear and walk with him again. I see again his warm, but broken smile, and that pale green fire that glimmered in his eyes. Like Dante and Virgil, we step off into the dream, continuing as good friends always do, right where we left off. Such dreams I have had. 

Upon awakening, I have clung to this dream world like Ishmael to his coffin only to have it all dissolve into thin air like a baseless vision, this insubstantial pageant faded. Like most old men, I have lost control of my hue, become sodden with sentimentality, and am overbrimming with tears ready to spill over the edges of my eyeholes. Awakening from a world where Jones and I were laughing and carrying on in a high philosophical gossip, the likes of which I could not imagine if I lived a thousand lives, my eyes are suddenly opened to the grey light of morning, to the foul pallet I sleep upon, to the dismal reality the day. I reach after that laughter and language with the slow tired hand of my memory only to find it slipping through my grasp. The more desperately I reach, the quicker fades the dream. And my overbrimming skull tips forward and spills its warm salty tears. I have long dreamed of such a kind of man,
So surfeit-swell'd, so old and so profane; But, being awaked, I do despise not my dream, but the wakened world. 

And so it is after many years when I did not my quietus make before the soiled organon of the morning, I resolved myself to tell this story. It has gestated within me less like a kicking and mewing fetus and more like an essential growth, a alien but necessary organ that keeps my alive against my best intentions. I can feel its presence within, insinuating into my thoughts, speaking, as it were, through me. Thus, I must, like Bertrand Russell, "before I die, find some way to say the essential thing that is in me, that I have never said yet - a thing that is not love or hate or pity or scorn, but the very breath of life, fierce and coming from far away, bringing into human life the vastness and the fearful passionless force of non-human things."

I do not want to burden you too much with the fortunes and failures of my own life. I am one of those who would rather keep to the shadows of history and leave my words where all ladders starts, in that great dustbin of anonymity. My name, it means nothing. However, I do want you to thank me for introducing you to the singular form of Charles B. Jones, whose substance lends itself to every shade. I have striven here to the utmost extremes of my talents to distill the essence of his wit and wisdom, his poetry of being, from what yet remains of his burning bones. And, having said this, may the Dead God's Skull smile upon your health and not forget me. Vale