I'm looking for the title and author of a short story I read sometime between the late '70s and the '80s.

It's about a young couple who are curious about a neighbor with a peculiar behavior. I don't recall the specifics of this behavior. But the neighbor ends up being an alien that is appraising the Earth as a work of art.

Before leaving, the alien notes that the Earth is not a particularly inspired piece. But it is not completely worthless either and, hence, it will be spared destruction. One of the positives is the way living creatures get their energy (eating).

  • When you have identified the correct answer, please click on the checkmark to the left to indicate that. – Invisible Trihedron Apr 27 at 15:09
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    I thought it was the Fjords? ;-) – Peter - Reinstate Monica Apr 28 at 13:10

This sounds a lot like Robert Heinlein's "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag."

In the slightly nightmarish story a young couple run into strangenesses and stumble on a secret organization called the "Sons of the Bird": 'The Bird is cruel'.

They finally discover that our world is a work of art by a young, godlike artist and they witness it being judged by the neighbor who is a not-so-young, godlike art critic. Because of some touches including eating and drinking (no one had previously thought of a world where the intake of energy is an art form like find cooking) the world is amended (among other things the Sons of the Bird are erased), but the world is kept. The young artist is judged to be amateurish, but showing promise.

  • The major thing I remember about this story is that the couple were told not to separate, so they used handcuffs to make sure of this. I think they continued to do this. – NomadMaker Apr 27 at 14:59
  • Plot summary at Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – user14111 Apr 27 at 16:01
  • Full text at the Internet Archive: archive.org/details/Unknown_v06n03_1942-10_PDF_unz.org/page/n8/… – user14111 Apr 27 at 16:03
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    The "neighbor" was no neigbor in The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. The main characters are husband and wife, and they are detectives. Hoag comes to them to have them follow him to find out what he does during the day time. He has become aware that he only remembers evenings and mornings, but knows nothing about what he does in the day time when is supposedly working. In investigating Hoag, the detectives discover the real nature of life on Earth. – JRE Apr 27 at 17:47
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    "Slightly nightmarish" you say? You must set a high bar for nightmares ... – davidbak Apr 28 at 4:40

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