THE BROTHEL CREEPER – Stories of Sexual and Spiritual Tension
by Rhys Hughes

Gray Friar Press 2011

Real-time Review continued from HERE.


The Indigo Casbah

Ian had twirled this letter thrice before folding it into a paper glider, affixing it in this new incarnation with a paperclip and filing it out of the window.”

We reach a perfect Rhys Hughes story for me, a substantive ‘Sgt. Pepper’ scenario (akin to the area and ‘culture’ I lived in as a University student in the 1960s) invigorated by Rhys-Hughesian Absurfacing conceits rather than those conceits being the story’s raison-d’etre. A place where students hang out and listen to music and ‘smoke’. The style is wonderfully literary, Malcolm-Lowryesque, Joseph-Conradian, texturedly satisfying but *clear*. The convincing studentish folk as characters trying to find each other by postcards, letters etc in pre-internet days (even mention of a ‘mail order company’!) – madness by music (see the overriding theme among the stories of the recent ‘First Book of Classical Horror Stories’ of a musical theme lodging in the brain forever), a theme extrapolated – in ‘The Indigo Casbah’ – toward the state of physical books and their clinging textual leitmotifs as a literary ambition, some books even avoiding the ‘smoke’ of (in today’s terms) imputed ebook-electronic-burning (a threat that was not even thought about in the assumed period of the story and at the time this story was actually first published in the mid-1990s) – and a lot more. This story (as promised by ‘One’s A Crowd’) is what the ‘Brothel Creeper’ Rhys-Hughesian collection should all be about and, luckily, here it is!  “And now she was floating through the sky, delectable dirigible, nosing through a candy floss cloud…” (18 Sep 12 – 8.55 am bst)

God in a Basement Flat

“Am I doomed always to choose the role of victim?”

The author himself as story’s title? Taking up the book’s gestalt again of self-deception or self-hatred, of suicide as an ambition rather than a failure, and leading directly from the previous story: “Students and deities always end up in basement flats.” This is the most sophisticatedly philosophical story I’ve read by this author, indeed possibly the most such story I’ve ever read period. God and hierarchies and religious frontiers and recurrent parallel realities spiritual as well as mundane, all with a Japanese culture threaded through. Anselm eat you heart out. So what is such a story doing in such a collection? Forget lowest or highest common denominators in readership. Just think aspirational coherency of complexities that affect us all.  Coherency that only such rarefied fiction can address.  Chasing the Noumenon. Absurfing the Fucking Ineffable. All spiced with haikus. A low static sun, but is it sunset or sunrise that you *feel*? “The roof  had collapsed; the iron balconies sagged like intestines between poles.” (18 Sep 12 – 2.05pm bst)


After two remarkable stories, this one is incredibly silly.  I lost patience with it. It is as if it were a deliberate experiment in debasing the Rhys-Hughesian fiction conceit, just to test out whether someone like me could transcend his own natural propensity to garner the best from the best. Fanny harbours many ambitious wishes to genies etc for flying carpets etc, say, to travel to scenarios involving King Kong, Prince Charming’s ‘ball’, Wizard of Oz (the Yellow Sick Road!), Andrew Lloyd Webber, Scary Spice, Mary Poppins, with the author so blatantly intruding I wondered if he were taking the mick of himself as well as of me! Apologies if I missed the point-to-point by being on the wrong oz. (18 Sep 12 – 3.30 pm bst)



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