And it is of the novella entitled ‘The Coandă Effect’ by Rhys Hughes (Ex Occidente Press 2010).
There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
All my real-time reviews are linked from here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/df-lewis-real-time-reviews/
All my Ex Occidente Press real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/ (2 Dec 10)
THE COANDĂ EFFECT
A Corto Maltese Adventure
by Rhys Hughes
From Publisher’s website: “The Coandă Effect is a sewn hardcover book of 124 pages with dust-jacket, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece. Edition limited to only 100 hand numbered copies. $55 inc. p&p to Europe and USA, $55 to the rest of the world. This is a collector’s edition.” –
although the cover design currently shown there (2 Dec 10) is not the same as that on the book in my hand, viz:
My one is numbered 25.
“…a tight-lipped character who never spoke of his work to anyone…”
This is Captain Nullity. Seems an appropriate name to me. Actually made me laugh out loud, as one says on the internet. Seriously, this seems to be a hilarious and telling introduction to a sailor who is not due to become the central sailor character of this book. As it is told at the end of ‘The Iceberg’, the central character is someone named far more sensibly as Corto Maltese. Without creating a spoiler, this first tale represents a typically ingenious Rhys-Hughesian conceit – here relating to the Titanic Iceberg and its later fate. Seriously, hilarious brilliant stuff. (2 Dec 10 – another hour later)
“…a display of incredible nonchalance.”
Can great literature represent such a display in itself, I wonder? I trust this book will prove it finally one way or another. The book’s pages are made of paper too stiff and unbending to predict such matters yet. The dustjacket is even stiffer. Deliciously so.
Here, the narrator (a Welsh journalist) fatefully meets Corto Maltese (apparently at least half-Welsh, too?) at the Brescia airshow in 1909. Full of more nifty conceits and Kafka, too. The best conceit is left to the end of this chapter – concerning palmistry. It has to be read to be appreciated fully. There is also a general bombastic feel of competing with Fate or using it, yes, nonchalantly… (2 Dec 10 – another hour later)
“…he finally admitted his work was theory alone. I turned to leave in disgust but he tried to recapture my attention…”
Our journalist narrator passes through a year or two making connections with his earlier yet unrepeated meeting with Corto in Brescia (and subsequent meeting with an inventor of prototype flight by exploding bicycle?) and, another few weeks later, the Titanic Iceberg pops up again into the reader’s attention (i.e mine). [I’ve received this hot-off-the-press book so quickly (despite the snow), I am probably its only reader as I speak, but not for long.]
I am reluctant to continue re-narrating in shorthand the plot as it happens in this review. I’m merely giving you a running start (or premature take-off?) as you delve further into the book. My future reports here will be more free hunches than free lunches. [Meanwhile, I draw attention to the excellent fiction work of Tim Nickels that I’ve sometimes compared to that of Rhys Hughes, and vice versa. TN’s long story ‘Supermarine’, also about aeroplane flight, I recommend as a side-dish to this novella. Or this novella as a main-course to an otherwise brilliant starter. Seriously.] (2 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)
The Sailor on Land
“…and failed yet again to read his favourite book […] right to the end.”
I hope that fate is not mine. Although a perfect state would be forever reading one’s favourite book without reaching the end?
This short chapter is a perfectly styled description of Corto’s brooding life since the Brescia airshow and since his meeting with our Welsh narrator (who is now presumably at least partially out of the plot loop?).
Corto in Paris and elsewhere. A sailor on land. Sheer blissful prose. (2 Dec 10 – another 2 hours later)
“I had a hunch…”
Our narrator takes up my evening’s post-prandial slack as he gets embroiled with some well-delineated characters not unconcerned with the remains of the Titanic Iceberg. The narrator delineates himself well, too – by inference.
You know, I’m really enjoying this book as the duel between “that which exists and that which exists not” promises to last forever. There will now be a short delay in my reading for this review as I hope ‘The Coandă Effect”, too, will last forever. (2 Dec 10 – another hour later)
The Modern Pirate
“Captain Tom ‘Red’ Alaerts, the terror of the high seas.”
…the pirate with whom our narrator is about to join up on a sea quest, a quest geared to instructions from Mr Pugh Bloat in Porthcawl, South Wales and not unrelated to the Titanic Iceberg. And with what “dignified man” watching a monoplane being assembled does our narrator lock eyes before embarking on the quest? As he doesn’t yet know, I’m sure he’s about to find out and then tell me in a later chapter. Story-telling as an act of trust between reader and narrator, if not always between reader and author.
As you can see, I could not resist reading another chapter before going to bed. I hope to continue this review tomorrow. But we shall see. Meanwhile, goodnight. (2 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)
” ‘…there are times when men must persist with a chosen course of action, not only in spite of danger but because of it.’ “
It is genuinely good to wake up to this book, especially at this point in it. The narrator seemingly gone, we learn more about Corto (e.g. a gold earring or did we know that already?) and his mission to establish his credentials as a sailor, an unlandlocked sailor, a sailor-with-a-mission. First he needs the sea – and the Oasis where he meets a political-minded helper seems to promise a gateway via inner machinations [machinations not dissimilar, I have to say, to something I envisaged myself in part of my NN novel, assuming I have envisaged correctly those machinations here!]
The reading mission of great fiction (like ‘The Coandă Effect”) is similar to Corto’s own style of missioning. Not to be a missionary but a missionery (Cf the difference between ‘stationary’ and ‘stationery’). Honestly love this book. So far. (3 Dec 10)
Into the Atlantic
” ‘Everyone who sails with Captain Tom needs a special name.’ “
As the narrator resumes the coverage (for journalistic purposes) of his own sea quest alongside the pirate captain, I shall now leave you new readers of the book (I’m not a new reader but an old one) to your own devices vis a vis the plot as it unfolds before my eyes – or even the plot’s plot. Suffice to say, this chapter has an interesting take on ‘identity’ and its uses. (3 Dec 10 – an hour later)
Meanwhile in Romania
” ‘I remember breaking an icicle off my roof, long and thick as a lance it was, and going out to hunt wolves. I had to find and kill them before the icicle melted.’ “
Slightly post-Titanic, we learn (from narrator or author?) a history lesson of tensions regarding the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan states, including more plotted machinations involving two characters you haven’t yet met regarding possible to-be-newly-invented weapons. [I, for one, don’t believe in wars, so I usually withdraw my best interests from things for even better, if the same, interests later – but that has nothing to do with this book, a book that continues to intrigue and delight me.] (3 Dec 10 – another 4 hours later)
Blood and Fog
This chapter title sounds to me like a Shakespearean expletive. And, indeed, for me, this book here takes on (briefly?) a Shakespearean soliloquy in feel if not in substance, where the relationship between the narrator and author goes backstage and that between narrator and hero enters: “I wanted to be like him, but I didn’t know how!” Which makes a very telling, if inadvertent, resonance later with: “This seemed an irresponsible way to conduct an act of piracy…” And piracy and privacy in subtle dramatic terms take on a new combined vision when the buccaneering sea-quest is out-nonchalantised by an abrupt penetration from the sub-cortège prefigured in the Oasis chapter. (3 Dec 10 – another 90 minutes later)
The Iron Coffin
” ‘Truly this world of ours is full of odd coincidences.’ “
To be full of something means you must have somewhere else outside to put the contents if the inside capacity gets too cramped. And I’m leaving much of the plot in my brain rather than filling this review with the contents of my brain, however much the two coincide (or not). Suffice to say, the dialogue throughout this chapter between Corto and the narrator fills much in for me – but my confident nonchalance about what I’m being filled with as a simple reader who bought this book to read (not to discuss ambiently on this blog necessarily) is shaken at the end of the chapter by Corto getting the narrator’s name wrong.
[As an aside, the possibly relevant information that Corto’s mother came from Gibraltar gives another link with the story ‘Supermarine’ that I mentioned earlier.] (3 Dec 10 – another 45 minutes later)
” ‘The twist is that I never seemed to get full…’ “
Meanwhile back to the ‘Meanwhile in Romania’ scenario. You no longer, of course, need this review to gauge whether you will like this book. You will have already made up your mind and will probably want to read it to find out, inter alia, why it’s entitled ‘The Coandă Effect’. However, if you’ve decided not to buy the book, you’ve probably not reached this far in this real-time review in any event! However, is this book, for all you know, a device for converting literary energy into physical force…? Only reading it will show you the importance of that rhetorically elliptical question, perhaps. (3 dec 10 – another 45 minutes later)
The Coloured Glass
“Soon enough I was able to clearly discern figures engaged in a fierce duel, two of them;”
A thought-full chapter, whereby we are led to soliloquise on the nature of herosim, and the changing nature of heroes in actual real-time and real retro-causality of hindsight. The plot’s action (and reaction) meanwhile progresses delightfully, although I’m sometimes suspicious that I am being led by false beacons on to narrative rocks. As if I’m the only reader; the only one to perish by this book’s enticement to cross swords with its machinations? (3 Dec 10 – another 30 minutes later)
The Bandit Queen
“I was clearly the witness of a story far too secret to be written down in full, but I had entered midway through the tale, at a late chapter.”
A witness is inside a story, a reader outside of it, a real-time reviewer both inside and outside it? Whatever the case, I was wondering if the chapter titles themselves give spoilers as to the audit trail of the plot. They are all listed by name at the beginning of the book. This one is about an intriguing female character. (3 Dec 10 – another 45 minutes later)
The Morning After
A change of plan on my part. Off to Romania with Corto. Upon a cross between Biggles and Manga (Porco Rosso). I’ve lost my way a bit. (3 Dec 10 – another 3 hours later)
That word makes me believe there is evil or horror in everything we do. Here a Mad Professor scene back in Romania, converting into a synergy many of the conceits of the book heretofore. Including the art – as I earlier stabbed at without hitting the target – of sacrificing something of yourself for the sake of something inferior to what you sacrificed … or here, sacrificing life or immortality in the certain belief that, as a result, you will win a war – or a duel? There seems something in this ‘demonstration’ that is intrinsic about the nature of European History in the 20th century. Amid the absurdity, a sliver or chip off the cold block of truth. (3 Dec 10 – another 45 minutes later)
Jules Vernian flights and landings – and our narrator is now a wanted man as imparted to him by a letter from his boss, a letter delivered by the mechanics of the plot, a letter that is simultaneously information for him and his physical punishment for what that information implies. Like the subtext of this book to its reader. Or a present from author to narrator via reader, because without a reader, there is nobody to read the narration. But then what of the author…? (3 Dec 10 – another 30 minutes later)
” ‘I had a hunch something wasn’t right…’ “
The Iron Dream made truth. Or vice versa. Imagination rampant. But does one need imagination at all to create machines from words? Or words from machines? All you need is invention. And mad inventors to believe in them, as through madness one can imagine it being truth itself.
Just brainstorming. That’s what Rhys Hughes fiction makes you do. Especially, as I’ve now discovered, when reading it as part of a public exercise in reportage on a machine like this one. A narrator of a narrator beyond my control. A reporter of a reporter. My whole philosophy of real-time-reviewing within the forgotten Art of Reading put under the microscope. At least while I’m brainstorming here, I’m not letting real plot spoilers escape into the aether… (3 Dec 10 – another 45 minutes later)
I’m not sure I believe in endings of any plots in fiction. But let’s drink to this one; I’ll have mine with ice. Here’s to the words and their conceit. Their splendid nonchalance coupled with severe wit. Their raising-both-arms-to-each-side-like-a-schoolboy-aeroplane. Their unique invention. Here’s to this book that contains them: a great read for all readers who can read it with a sense of absurdity as well as sufficient seriousness to do its madnesses and perhaps inadvertent wisdoms justice. Here’s to the author. Finally, here’s to pilots that turn from just dropping bombs to dropping themselves. Cutting lifelines to match their destinies. A lesson for future wars and acts of terror and nullity. (3 Dec 10 – another hour later)