FLASH IN THE PANTHEON by Rhys Hughes
Gloomy Seahorse Press 2014
MY REVIEW (CONTINUED FROM HERE) WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE COMMENT STREAM BELOW AS AND WHEN I READ THE BOOK:-
Gorgon but Not Forgotten
“Then I saw the shadows of snakes.”
You won’t be able to imagine the lasting force-by-frisson of that sentence in its context unless you experience the context itself in today’s Rhys Hughes flash fiction… Snakes as part of the Gorgon myth or escaped human entrails?
The Sink Monster
This inadvertently has all the adjuncts of the film I watched last night of Alan Bennett’s An Englishman Abroad, including soap, sink plug, and the absurdity and Englishness of someone like Guy Burgess…
It is actually the most original of all the flash fictions in this book so far and the most memorable, if not the best, but not overtly enjoyable; it is a work of painful art.
My review of this one is the whole text of it shown here:
Make your own moons up.
I Saw a Ghost Ship
“Are you pulling my leg?”
A delightful series of puns made true, kidding me, literarily.
The Tribal Philosophers
The art of some great absurdist-ironical literature is to kid you into believing how unspectacular it is while reading it until in immediate hindsight you realise it was wittily astonishing. This is one such example.
I reviewed the next story a short while ago here about a fiction magazine where it appeared – and I then said:
[[… But you can taste differences in the nature of air, acrid or pure, smoky or scented, etc.; yet air is air, it’s only what’s in the air that makes it seem different. Meanwhile, after reading this magazine’s last fiction by Rhys Hughes, a short coda to the inspiring set of fiction stories I have just reviewed, I am tempted to think of the difference between Fresh Air and Stale Air: a logical child-like extrapolation of their respective bodily invigorations (or otherwise) that resonates ironically and subtly with the nature of horror literature, whatever its emotions, cruel or sublime or absurd. Urban horror or countryside horror.
A coda with codes, ‘Stale Air’ is not a silly story as the story itself claims. ‘Inspiring’ is a word I just used above about this magazine’s gestalt. That word is also related to breathing. Lovecraft’s Cool Air. Or the head-banging heat on Barber’s bus. Air touches all parts of the body, inside and out. ]]
The Sun Lamp
An illuminating sequel to ‘The Tribal Philosophers’.
By the way, ‘Flash in the Pantheon’ is the only ordinarily printed book in the world that I imagine can act as braille to a disabled visionary.
The Falling Lover
A Lawrence-Durrellian configuration of an event seen from three points of view. In a Lawrence-Durrellian prose style. Exquisite.
I wonder how others will see it? The event thus adumbrated by the story’s prose as well as the intrinsic value and enjoyment of the story itself.
The Imp of the Icebox
“Cold womb, frost goddess, snow mother, barren and hard, chill me with your icy breath.”
It would be easy to take this whole book for granted, crammed with delicacies often rich, sometimes spare, tasty, intellectually nutritious and the only way is to treat each fiction as a discrete gem to savour no more frequently than on a daily basis as well as leaving the assessment of the book’s gestalt until its very end. Today’s fiction is a case in point. You have to open the door to your mind to discover its light.
Virgil Leading Dante into Hell Takes a Wrong Turning
Despite the ending of this puckishly infernal story being predictable with the appearance of bikes in Hell, it did not lessen the force of my laughing out loud at the sheer literary bravado. A wrong turning was also taken with the name-checking of a painter, Bosch not Brueghel being more likely I’d say.
The painting that inspired this story (which I wrote back in 1992) was *The Triumph of Death* which I finally saw for real in Madrid in 2007. But my very first exposure to it (believe it or not) was as the cover for Black Sabbath’s Greatest Hits album, which I first saw in 1983… Things often linger for ages.
Yes, that is a great painting. I had forgotten about it. My wrong turning!
The Precious Mundanity
This should be read on all Philosophy of Religion courses. A touching and thought-provoking inversion or retroversion of Godly immanence.
The Earthworm’s Ecstasy
“…a miracle happened.”
A half miracle, as it turned out.
An engaging ‘what if’ about the nature of Earth’s apparent moon, whether two of each sex seen singly, or conjoined moonmouths or the four toes fallen at the foot of a giant statue (the latter being my own conceit, not the story’s!), this flash fiction has lit up my day with something far more interesting than the sun predictably shining upon me through the window at this very moment and whose sunnish existence’s only mystery is when it’s behind chance clouds in a one-trick pony of its cheap tease.
An absolutely brilliant sunflash of a flush fiction, where (SPOILER ALERT!) an attractive girl jeweller (I visualise her as attractive) traps the sun into showing its pedantry by enticing it to nit-pick on her cute mistake with the word ‘pendant’. (The sun has not had a good press in this and the previous fiction, I see. The sun has got its bling and tat on, hiphiphooray.)
This book started a month or two ago with a ‘Goblin Sunrise’ and today’s story is a further delightful extrapolation of hiring incompetent helpers, and here it is to paint the landscape. I sometimes think of my own stories being written by incompetent helpers who can’t see the wood for the trees. Or they themselves are the trees?
Bunch of Oddballs
Our dying planet abandons all of us for not preventing one of us writing such fictions as this one.
The Apricot Jar
“Every man and woman is allowed to eat a secret apricot.”
This is a brilliantly oblique resonance of a morality tale, one that would have helped bolster some of the more effete fey feeble fables in the Rhysop’s Fables book that I am simultaneously reviewing on a daily basis.
(If I am ever punched on the nose by an author whose work I review I suspect it will start to ooze apricot jam rather than blood.)
Deluged with Aunts
A tale worthy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories.
A story with a bad press for the sun, yet another negative..
No wonder it keeps away from Wales!
Better The Devil
A Socratic Dialogue to end all Socratic Dialogues leading to a shock ending about the Devil you know and the Devil you don’t know.
Dydks and Dybbuks!
The Vice-Versa Squad
This feels familiar as if I have read it before but that’s maybe because it’s about things being done backward. It seems to be a tangential Thornton Excelsior story, and has a brilliant conceit about a foolproof way of catching criminals plus a wonderful wordplay on ‘poker’. Fireproof if not foolproof.
The Fire Jump
A classic Rhys Hughes flash fiction, where the fire wordplay works as a diversion (or fire-break) from the stunning twist ending.
Taking Time Off
“…and all those old favourites that are nobody’s favourite.”
Just in that one phrase we have a wealth of meaning. The Two-Toed Sleuth again and he plays now with the word time. I love this one.
I am now taking what I consider to be a well-earned summer break from real-time reviewing or Dreamcatching books until September.
The Holiday Makers
This extrapolation on holidays around this time of the year, that I have just experienced as a reinvigorating break from real-time reviewing, seems astonishingly predictive of something I could not have predicted without reading this today for the first time!
Deals, too, with the work ethic and creation or discovery of lost things that permeate this book. A new Goblin sunrise, but possibly with rain impending. Poignant and delightful.
The Jungle Bird
“…and civilisation collapsed in lots of small ways, and all those small ways added up to one big way.”
…reminding me of the Summer’s world attrition just past, a telling and hilarious flash fiction, one that makes you weep and laugh at the same time. Also the toucan once saved my last balcony as well as the world’s…
Man Toocan triumph.
A long Swiftian flash fiction, if flash fictions can actually be or just appear long, with the simultaneously silliest and cleverest ending ever. Only Rhys can bring this off.
A clever clever skit on equality for anthropomorphs, their responsibilities as well as rights.
I equally plea for readers’ rights when their minds are skewed into bouts of absurdity by the likes of Rhys Hughes. One wonders if there is meat in his sausage or just airy-fairy wordplay.
“I’m a photographer and I took the photo of that rabbit that you are painting! You’re a plagiarist!”
A delightful satire on the Ligotti-Pizzolatto plagiarism issue that occurred during the recent summer break of this review.
The Nose Drill
The Pinocchio syndrome taken provokingly to coital lengths of truth and deceit.
The Birth of Opera
After “lady(fat)+song=over” in yesterday’s flash fiction, today we have a treatment of a know-it-all who utters this saying in full, and gives us an insight into know-it-allness as well as opera. Wagner, eat your heart out, I say.
Having long been a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist in the rules of grammar and semantics and intentional fallacy, I gave Wittgenstein a dose of Preterite juice and all was well with the world… As was this blue flash flash flash fiction that stirred me to do it. (My Grandma was a major figure in my formative years).
The Reversed Comma
A nifty Thornton Excelsior story about commas that speed up rather than slow down, and I’d only add that ‘amocking’ (using a- as in apolitical or amoral), could be a variation of ‘ammoc’, and is the act of using a pointless comma, one that neither speeds or slows up, typographically like a postrophe. Also known as an Oxford comma?
“I don’t mean that I wore a bicycle costume but that I had surgery to convert myself into such a machine. Puppets can do that easily.”
But it is harder for puppets to write about it afterwards!
By the way, that quote is a spoiler, but thankfully with this particular flash fiction there is not much to spoil.
Brief Hilltop Halt
A hilarious conversation between a bicycle and a tree’s rustling that gave a hiss to its voice. Rhys is a rustler himself, rolling, rolling, rolling, get those absurdists rolling. Áburshisseds. Pedlar Bisonkisseds, too.
The Bicycle Mine
Once a bicycle turns back to the puppet it once was it is then able again to get a proper bicycle and ride it. I loved the idea of a land where there are mines for household artefacts and other contraptions of modern living like bikes, better than only being able to mine for coal or gold. This book is a mine, too. A mine of absurd and witty conceits and mind-stretching jokes. All mine, now!
In hindsight, this had the most obvious and outrageous ending. However, its skill was that I never predicted it till I got to the end! Amazing.
These last few ongoing flash fictions in the book seem to make a whole story together, so I may finish this marathon dreamcatcher review today in honour of the day I realised that fact. Here, characteristic of this author, an honest common expression is turned into fruit for new ironic absurdities of meaning, at the cost of the smalltalker who made it: “hey, the heavens are about to open”, looking up to the darkening sky, talking to his neighbour, forgetting that the world today (this day) is indeed on the brink of or has already commenced an accretive default de facto piecemeal World War III.
The Mushroom Cloud
It seems apt that the war just started takes the mushroom cloud from the previous fiction, with the delightful non sequitur conceit that a place like Stonehenge needs double glazing to stop the draughts. Only non sequiturs have traction of real meaning, I propound. Like today following yesterday willy nilly and ignoring any threads between them when all things new arise in the guise of continuation.
A wonderful theme and variations on the puppet’s Pinocchio Nose Syndrome. An anthropomorphic puppet that seems so right for our world when choppers come down like in Punch and Judy,
“I know all about sabotage, propaganda, disorientation! I can manipulate foreign media–“
Thornton Excelsior and another set of nose operations, the ‘lower nose’ as some call it, black market ops, I assume. So dreadfully ironic in view of today’s breaking news…
Internet squabbles and World Wars, who can tell between them; they have the same root: us.
The Lower Nose whence we all drip – but every reader now knows that “silence is often the truest truth.” The Mucky Puppet’s final essence of ‘rare sense’.
This closing set of knowing flashes ends one of those big illuminary beacons, a great book that needs a gestalt to make it somehow the greatest of the pantheon. One day, I shall make a great gestalt for all the many many books of Rhys Hughes, no mean task from someone like me who means well but sometimes sadly acts mean against my better meaning.
Whatever the eventual gestalt, you know what I mean when I say that many of these flash fictions (you know who you are) are great in themselves as separate gems without a gestalt. Perhaps my own nose for genius , my last ‘rare sense’, my attar of roses.
THE THREE PARTS OF THIS FLASH IN THE PANTHEON REVIEW:
https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/644-2/ (this one)
THE RHYSOP’S FABLES REVIEW STARTS HERE: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/rhysops-fables-rhys-hughes/
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