Maugham once said "The artist's egoism is outrageous; it must be; he is by nature a solipsist and the world exists only for him to exercise upon it his powers of creation." This is concretely the intent and exemplification thereof in the title story of Fowles' collection of five longer short ones -- two of which will pick up this theme where the artist must cold-shoulder the world and human values to swaddle his creativity. Thus he introduces also outrageous, also impossibly egoistic Breasley, who has found a sanctuary for his solipsism in a lovely house in Brittany where he is attended and serviced by two young women when David Williams, a writer-lecturer in the field having given up his own work, comes to interview him. There David realizes for the first time that his own "Ebony Tower" is a void where "safety hid nothingness" except the abandonment of himself and his potential. In "Poor Koko" we have another reclusive -- a writer of 66 who has always shirked real life for his work -- now to be destroyed by the impromptu visit of a young hood. And again in "The Enigma" the disappearance of a conservative MP, hemmed in by correct appearances and rightist assumptions, vanishes if only to impose a lingering question mark on the mediocrity of his achievements. The last story is a sad fairy tale come true, told to a child, experienced by a young woman -- and there's a charming lais of the 12th century Marie de France in "Eliduc." To the stories Fowles lends his eclectic erudition, the attractive overlay of sensuous surfaces, and a little commentary for and of our time. And as always he proceeds with splendid ease and confidence to catch the eye at a pleasurably decorative level and then turn it inward.