Gloomy Seahorse Press (2014)
Unhelpful and irresponsible fables for the modern age
THIS REAL-TIME REVIEW (CONTINUED FROM HERE) WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ THIS BOOK:-
Filed under Uncategorized
Acting the Goat, Vampires!, Acting the Ghost, More Vampires!, Middle of the Road
“Her first role was to play a goat that got itself stuck at the top of a cliff.”
There is an expression in England (but perhaps not in Wales) about ‘playing the giddy goat’ and Rhys Hughes as a writer often plays the giddy goat with our imaginations, as he does here. Also he has the cheek to repeat his ‘all mirrors are vampires’ conceit (see my recent review of ‘Vampiric Gramps’ here). And ending with traffic islands as holiday resorts. A fabulous melange of morals.
The Warlord, The Same Boat, The Snob, A Close Brush, Trying it On
“But the sea wasn’t sympathetic at all. In fact it was made of dismissive hands.”
To be in the same boat is like being in the same batch of fables like this batch, and indeed a sentient hot-air ballon flies between them. The last of this batch has a laugh-out-loud moment with a man’s tweed jacket and its breast pockets. An abstract painting, and a bloodshed, a trunk telescope, and a warlord with big pockets plus an air pocket (the balloon again) sentiently moving through the batch like the reader myself.
Table Talk, The International Punfest, A Linear Adventure, The Midair Meeting, Throwing a Meringue, The Equator’s Mistake, The Bed’s Error, The Disappointed Mermaid
…being a list of fable titles like those lists of customers in the first fable’s restaurant, as if fables can eat each other, their morals being quips and grunts and expletives in the main with this batch, and misunderstanding of words, a whole life based on puns being puns, boomerangs boomerangs and not meringues, mermaidingues, and fable meeting fable in midair and bouncing back to the reader. You know, I am now enjoying these fables more in batches, like a pick-n-mix used to be with sweets in Woolworths?
Rhino Cop, The Hippocratic Oath, Can’t Think of a Title, Poor Visibility, The Generous Breasts, The New Knight, The Natural Spectacle
Now we seem to come to a thin batch of thin jokes about rhinos, hippos, bears, raccoons etc. These two example quotes from them show how Rhys can sometimes take the mick out of his readers. Sometimes even genius cannot be excused.
“‘We’re stuck, aren’t we?’ said Tim gloomily. / ‘Yes, in a rubbish fable.'”
“Inventing morals for these fables is getting a bit boring now.”
On the Shelf, The Famous Alexander, Boulder Croquet, Antimatter Pasta, The Politico and the Polyp, King of the Liars, The Popular Garden Plant
“Fancy keeping a shelf on a shelf!”
The highlight of this batch is an extreme liberal that reminds me of a Rhysian story about the inner illogic of ‘Freedom’…
I have used the word batch so far for these groups of fables, but has anyone out there got a better collective noun for fables? Add a comment, if so.
Homeopathic Curses, Poor Plato, The Sea Trails, Holding Up The River, The Allotment, The Castaway Cook, Down the Shops, The Flying Fish
“One of the principles of homeopathy is that the more something is diluted the stronger it gets!”
Another sentient hot-air balloon floats into this batch along with a floating voter and some flying fish. But basically, the author himself takes over this review when he says from within the fables “That pun doesn’t really work, does it?” as the moral of one fable and, about another fable, “This is probably the worst fable of the entire bunch.” Hmmm. A ‘bunch’ of fables? Better than ‘batch’?
One bit I did like in another fable was: “A row of humans had pushed through the soil overnight, bald scalps gleaming with fresh dew, eyes blinking slowly.” They can’t really believe that they’ve been allotted to one of these feeble fables, I guess.
The Parable of the Homeless Fable
“There was a fable that didn’t belong to any known collection, […] So it was my moral duty to help.”
Well, we next come to a longer fable, one that I can announce, with some relief, is worth alone the cost of this whole book. It is a well-textured treatment, one with some truly original metafictional wit, a treatment of fables through history, comparing fables with parables, and honouring its reader as the only reader worth the honour of reading this fable. A Rhysian classic that deserves to read itself.
Incidentally, my earlier wonderment as to a collective noun for fables is serendipitously relevant to this particular work. An anthromorphology of fables? An anthrology of parables?
Duck in Disguise, The Bomb Scare, The Fruity Alcoholic Beverage, The Magical Eye
I suppose the ultimate duck in disguise might be Donald Duck, which would make this one neither a fable or a parable, but a farable. Meanwhile, this batch seems to be more substantial than some of the more run-of-the-mill, quickquippish flibettygibbets and other feeble fables that preceded it in this book. For example, the conceit of a bomb being scared is worth a chuckle. But careful does it; there just may be cyberbots’ eyes upon this review since my comments about turbans here. Someone may wish to cocktail my lights out. I’ll just get my “I’ll just get my quote and leave..” and leave…
The Cough, The Beans, A Lot on his Platypus, An Angry Condiment, The Short Sentence
I would like to take this opportunity to recommend an excellent story entitled ‘The Coughing Coffin’ by Charles Black that I first published in a Nemonymous book in 2007. The best of the bunch here is ‘The Short Sentence’ and I imagined a short sentence fighting for its integrity within a text by Marcel Proust. What I often find off putting, however, about some Rhysian fables, is that the morals are part of the flow of the action or just pointless quips, rather than a summation of the fable. Some of them are not even punchlines. Still, we were warned at the beginning that the following fables would be ‘unhelpful and irresponsible’. But we were not warned that some of them are feeble.
The Unforgiving Terrain, The Slobbery Kiss, Brassed Off, The Thirteenth Fable, Sentient Hot-Air Jellyfish Balloon
Two of this book’s recurring cartoonish leitmotifs in the previous batch and this one are sentient hot-air balloons and aardvarks with apricot jam on their noses. They wander in and out willy nilly. The best in this bunch of fables is ‘The Thirteenth Fable’ and it throws much needed light on ordinal destiny.
Baddie Twoshoes, Two Lettuces, Seeing a Genius, Cumquats, Sleepy Uprising, The Plumber, Cloud Disco
Two engaging fables in this batch, the one about a lettuce in a permanent vegetative state and the other a Whitehall Farce of peering at others through holes while looking for a genius, while all the time you are the genius that they are seeing. I wrote my name earlier in a rectangle provided by this book to stake my premonitory claim.
The Tree and the Beaver, The Seven Cs of CCCCCCCRhye, The Caveman, The Sultana, The Bathtub, When the Pot Called, Me Marzipan You Janus
Much of this book’s recursively anthropomorphic word-cartoons is now summed up by the morals in two fables from this batch…
“I really have no idea why I wrote this fable.”
“And that’s the ugly truth.”
Many a Slipper, A Donkey’s Head, Photo Opportunity, Forms of Transport, The Circular Barrier, A Bear Called Ted, The Game Show, Fox in Socks, Lemon Jelly Hospital
Other than the concept of the circular barrier, I couldn’t find anything to highlight in this batch. I think, after a while, the self-deprecation becomes wearing. One suspects it’s a writerly defence-mechanism rather than a witty bathos.
A Case of Arson, The Height of Everest, The Sandcastle, The Vegan Vegans, The Cinema Show, The Rough Estimate, Outremer, A Glass of Wine
Two fables to highlight here. ‘The Sandcastle’ is probably the most remarkable creative work you are ever likely to read, and not wholly for positive reasons! I don’t know how anyone could have the balls not only to write but also self-publish it. Beggars belief. Please spare me a bit of belief, Sir. And ‘The Cinema Show’ is a nifty fable that features the recurring aardvark with apricot jam on its nose and, so, it is fitting that this work is actually about a recurring dream!
Rhysop’s Fables, When it Lightly Rained, Reversing the Polarity, Flamingo Syndrome, The Radioactive Lord, The Ravenous Crow, Three Houses, The Camping Expedition, Categories of Love, Theaker Peculiar, Ship of Ghouls, Soup of Fools
“Ordinary Theaker? There’s no such thing! There is only the Theaker Peculiar. It’s an editor and reviewer. But it’s so rare that you’ll probably never meet one.”
The self-referential ship of fools, or ark of fables, this eponymous eponymity, with its crows, yeti, skeletons, aardvarks, sentient hot-air…I have a love-hate relationship with this now battered book that has been hanging around upon my person for months and months like a Catcher of the Wry, or the Cougher of Coffins, a jouster with jests, a work that currently completes for me the completist Rhysaurus, for good or ill. All has been forgiven, especially because of one fable in this last batch that inadvertently tickles me text… “Last night I reversed the polarity of a dreamcatcher,…”
THE FOUR PARTS OF THIS RHYSOP’S FABLES REVIEW –
https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/681/ (this one)
THE FLASH IN THE PANTHEON review started here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/flash-in-the-pantheon-rhys-hughes/
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