TALLEST STORIES by Rhys Hughes
Eibonvale Press 2013
Real-Time Review continued from HERE
THE REVIEW CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS TO THIS PAGE BELOW
11 – The West Pole
Rhys Hughes’ work often reawakens my own waking dreams when, as a child, being put to bed too early, I imagined all sorts of weird and wonderful reality-steeped fabrications. Hughes has uniquely taken this ability into an adulthood creativity – for the benefit of resummoning this nostalgic activity for fellowkind and, accepting that, we should all be grateful. This story is a prime example, telling of the gathering-point of a vertical, rather than horizontal, ley-line… It’s a sheer delight.
“Everybody seems to have a deadly rival!”
12 – Islands in the Bathtub: A Whovian bathtub world that makes me think of my childhood bathtimes when I really believed it was bigger and better and more imaginary than it actually was (sadly these days I do not own a bath but only a shower – a symbol for a drained old age) but even my childhood bath was nothing compared to the bathtub in this story leading to…and that nothing leads to Captain Nothing (aka Captain Nemo, I wonder?) following the author’s framing-device or fallaciously narrative (in)tent – where we take intermission liquid refreshments – a device that becomes even more inextricably entrammelled with the intervening stories/fables themselves that it should have merely framed, such as 13 – Billion World Boat which involves a sack rather than a tent of worlds with or without parallel poles.
These worlds like the stories themselves are falliblly anti-climactic, with paradoxically uplifting ‘dying falls’ where our souls live in things and things become us in alternate unnumbered worlds. Just imagine Whovian and Howvian combined.
Stringently estranged at the Murder Dinner?
Or retrocausally fancy-dressed as the Hawler?
Or simply an old fool who will always be an old fool?
No, No, none of these things. It’s someone thankfully ungoogled and nemonymous at the Writers’ Convention in the next framing passage where the following are justly framed by the author: “Jeffrey Ford … Michael Cisco … Brendan Connell, Elise Blackwell, Robert Devereaux, David Soares, Catherynne Valente, Luis Filipe Silva, Jay Lake, Vera Nazarian, Safaa Dib, Claude Lalumiere, Lawrence Schimel, Jorge Candeias, Yvonne Navarro … Stepan Chapman … Nathan Ballingrud … Forrest Aguirre … Jorge Seixas … Blanca Riestra, Lazaro Covadlo, David Rix, Nuno Fonseca … Luis Rodrigues…”
I originally intended the above to be “just imagine Whovian and Whatian combined”, but when someone on Facebook suggested ‘Howvian’ as a better bedfellow for ‘Whovian’, I relented. Rhys himself suggested ‘Whyvian’ and Who am I to argue?
And the next story is told in unison by all the above numerously name-smithed writers at the convention…
14 – The Smutty Tamarinds
“The medicine first degrades a joke into an anecdote, then into a memoir, then into an excuse and finally into a set of circumstances.”
…being one form of the earlier ‘devolved fiction’ phenomenon. I suggest that this has now come home to roost conveniently when the above ‘old fool who will always be an old fool’ knows he is a Joke that needs such devolving, and so I explore random rooms (akin to the well-googled ‘synchronised shards of random truth & fiction’?) to end my Jokedom with (as this story vicariously tells) a clinching punchline – because, you see, punchlines end all Jokes! I won’t spoil the story by imparting its own punchline, however, and whether I successfully ceased being a Joke or even ceased being ‘an old fool who will always be an old fool’. But there is a sort of coda to it in…
15 – A Curry in Camelot
The inverse of searching random places to end something negative, but here to find not an end to one’s Jokedom but the start to one’s Knightliness. A story with a mixture of complex images that only this author could bring off.
Preceding that story there was more thought-provoking framing-stuff concerning the comparison between this ‘pushing the envelope’ of literature and erecting beer tents etc.
16 – Encore
“Isn’t that enough? Music. Sleep.”
I see this enticing coda’s coda as the music of the sea (complete with wave-staves or hand-waves) and its sound the applause following it.
Part 3 – Last Taller Stories
There seems to be framing-stuff here giving a hard-copy book-‘refresh’ so as to regularise the tall pub-talk tales vis–a-vis each specifc subsequent teller of a tale and vis-a-vis the framing-stuff itself. For example, each of the following tales seems as if set to represent each hour of the day (meanwhile, there are sixty tales in the whole book which if they are a minute each would make an hour… Hmmm. We shall see) – starting with…
1* The Surface Area of a Ghost’s Wanderings
I find this fascinating. The scope of a ghost’s ability to cover subsequent haunting-ground depends where its source-human was born and later received his or her death. Mention is made about someone dying on an aeroplane. Something I’ve often thought about is being born on an aeroplane. Were you born (from the point of view, say, of any later biography) in mid-air over somewhere or in the place where your parents normally lived, ie. where you started living from a baby onward? I always say I was born in Walton-on-Naze on the latter grounds but I was actually born in Colchester Maternity Hospital on Jan 18 1948 but then went on to live in Walton till 1955.
There is also a fascinating case study in this story of a cold-caller who dies at but not beyond the door of your house…
Is that painting by IGL ‘avant garde’ or not? A rhetorical question?
2* Degrees of Separation
A clever tale – echoing one of the book’s leitmotifs – of devolution, here devolved revenge.
If I posed the serious point entailed by its ending, that would spoil the ending for you.
3* The Folded Page
The above is where I’ve folded a page in this story so as to hide an obvious typo (well, the only one so far in the whole book, which is good going!)
Meanwhile, this is a wonderful fable concerning the folding of paper into as many folds-into-half as possible devolved from a sheet the size of an inland sea. It is another prime example of that ‘waking dreams’ phenomenon I mentioned earlier in connection with Rhys Hughes fiction.
4* Milk and Ladders
From a doubled over page to Lord Doublestuff who ends up like a budding extra in a Heath Robinson contraption. But, for me, the most remarkable central conceit to this story is that concerning a magic carpet, but not an archetypal one, but one nailed to the floor… And I inevitably think of the central carpet in my own novel “Nemonymous Night” and how I would like a duel of fame between these two carpets!
“…there are some dreadful places in that direction, the county of Essex in England for instance;”
A decidedly weak story of the genesis of the genus genies-loci, where the paradoxes of wishes, genie-rubbing etc are explored, with a hangover from those earlier carpets…
The following story (the real-time review of which I reproduce below from when I first read and reviewed it in Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #40) is a true Rhys Hughes masterpiece, as if the juices from each previous story (perhaps more in keeping with a fine Rhysling or Sangria in a Sangraal than a pint in a straight glass) are devolved and then distilled…
6* The Juice of Days
[[It’s Friday, a particular Friday I’d describe as indeed “far sweeter than the juices of the previous two days“. A promising start to my own Friday. Actually, the synergy between this Heath Robinson contraptive ‘brainstorming’ and the process into which my own real-time reviewing (leitmotifs-to-gestalt) has developed over the years is, for me, nicely juiceable in itself. Disregarding that, however, this Rhysian fable, taken on its own, is quite brilliant, where one tries to create something “viable by design or chance” (cf: the distillation of the ‘ears’ conceit previously). A (dys)logical ingrowingly retrocausal exploitation of the ‘ad hoc’: the cumulative juicing of days eventually as a capitalist business plan… Also related to the message-or-man–in-the-bottle ethos of ‘Sangria in the Sangraal‘. [Anyone who enjoyed ‘The Juice of Days’ may enjoy its vague synergy with something by me called ‘Mrs Panegyric’s Haunting Melodies‘ first published in 1994.] (4 May 12- 8.45 am bst)]]
7* The Kissable Climes
From yesterday’s juices to today’s delightfully mad philosophy-satire on the “juicy sport” of kisses (a syllogism is a kiss if it feels like a kiss or something like that!), telling of the lands of various kisses such as Lipsaria or Contrivance, a tale so mad it teeters on the brink of Professor-Stanley-Unwin-land and there is a mouth at the beginning for the reader to kiss if he or she so desires…
“I’m not sure where Contrivance is but apparently it’s ‘everywhere on this page’ so it must be close. Future reviewers of this tale told me.”
And now my devolving conception of retrocausal reviewing of books is now backstarted by that last quote above!
8* But It Pours
“A pip at the centre of every raindrop.”
And now to more juices, the juices of the sky – literally. A brilliantly devocative vision of conceptual rain in all forms of ‘waking dream’. Or maybe I like it more becuase I’m a half-Welshman from Essex. But seriously, this story has a mind-torrent of vision beyond any other literature I have ever encountered … ending with the silliest Monaco joke imaginable. These sporadic interfaces of sublimity and silliness seem to mark out this author as something special – with books that will outlast most of us other writers playing about on the internet. Rhys Hughes also plays about on the internet, true, sometimes semi-scandalously, but it seems to suit him and his books’ styles more than it does others!
9* The Tallest Midget
“He loves racing things, not just ships but lizards, tomatoes, shadows, insults, wardrobes, loners, anything at all!”
Marbles, too, I ask? I have a reason to ask!
Best to concentrate, for me, on such personal tangents or missing ricochets, because the tale itself is another weak one like Niddala, I’m afraid, one about a football pitch on a bridge, with ephemera such as “Wane Moony”!
THIS REVIEW NOW CONTINUES HERE.
The four parts of this Real-Time Review:
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