Tag Archives: Rhys Hughes

Drowning in Air


This is to notify its would-be readers that I’m currently reviewing HERE the remarkable anthology STRANGE TALES IV.

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All my Rhys Hughes books

…that I’ve collected over the years:


All my reviews of Rhys Hughes work: HERE

LATER EDIT: One book above is wrongly shown (notified in comments below) but there are a further two books accidentally not shown above that are now shown in comments below



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The Abnormalities of Stringent Strange


Meteor House Press

My gestalt real-time review of THE ABNORMALITIES OF STRINGENT STRANGE by Rhys Hughes, a book received as a result of my purchasing this novel in the form of its signed ‘special edition’.

All my previous reviews of Rhys Hughes work are linked from HERE.

All my gestalt real-time reviews since 2008 are linked from HERE.

My review will appear in the ‘comment’ stream below as and when I read each section of the novel in random single sittings — however long this strange process may take within the stringent strictures of my otherwise normal life.


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Read it between jumping and hitting the ground. The last balcony, you see, is at the top of a building with many stories…

“I already know that I’ll be recommending it most highly to any and all readers who love original weird fiction…”
RHYS HUGHES, from his review of ‘The Last Balcony’ HERE

I’ve owned the rare book INTRUSIONS by Robert Aickman since the 1980s but I can’t remember having taken it off the shelf since first reading it (all its stories are contained elsewhere). I had occasion to look at it recently and was amazed at the wondrous synchronicity between its front cover and that of ‘The Last Balcony’ (2012). On consulting Tony Lovell (the artist who shaped the real object photographed for the ‘Last Balcony’ artwork) he also drew comparison with the shape he created and photographed for the cover artwork of ‘Busy Blood’ (2012). We’re both pleasantly surprised at this inspiring correlation. Perhaps we should call this the ‘Close Intrusions of a Third Kind’ syndrome?


The ‘Intrusions’ cover in 1980 is by Andrzej Krause (Andrzej Krauze?)

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March 20, 2013 · 10:55 am

Rhys Hughes and Waking Dreams

tallest91Rhys 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.

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Devolved Fiction


First coinage of ‘Devolved Fiction’ here, so as, in hindsight, to attempt to describe a fiction genre that is devolved to the reader where, inasmuch as the metafiction is so utterly extreme, it becomes, somewhat paradoxically perhaps, unmetafictional.

This relates to my recent coinages of Pronoun Horror and Future Perfect Fiction about The Lighthouse by Alison Moore and First Novel by Nicholas Royle respectively. (Links are to my reviews).

More boulders found on this morning’s ‘walnut walk’ (now so-called!) near where I live:

boulder11 boulder12boulder21 boulder31


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TALLEST STORIES by Rhys Hughes (a real-time review)

by Rhys Hughes


Bought by me on-line from the publisher.

Eibonvale Press 2013

‘sixty linked stories’

Below is another new style real-time review of mine


More DFL-connected Rhys-Hughesiana



1 – Rainbow’s End

“That’s the trouble with THE TALL STORY on Raconteur Road; every time you want a drink you have to tell one.”

This, so far, seems delightfully akin to the earlier Rhys-Hughesian pub-talk fictions with which I once real-tuned my time when reading THIS book. Here an engagingly imaginative abseil-surdity that deals with whether rainbows are what they used to be, e.g. complete with a crock of gold at its end.  Rather than the actual ‘crock’ joke in the story, I think it fits in better with my obsession today about ‘the last gold of decayed stars’ and the crock (wreck) with which some such chunk of ‘decayed star’ might crock the crock of this world at 7.30 pm tonight (Welsh time).  If so, I may never finish this review! 😐



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The Original Palimp’s Zest – YESTERFANG

This is a novella that appears in the hardback ‘Last Balcony’ Collection.


Yesterfang, s. [Eng. yester and fang.]
That which was taken, captured, or caught on the day preceding.
“That nothing shall be missing of the yesterfang.”
Holinshed: Descript of Scotland , ch. ix

“The range of scholarly and pulp influences is staggering, and they come from everywhere, and the novella itself picks a path between them, like a man exploring a chasm. It’s all rather enthralling.”
– Rhys Hughes here about the novella YESTERFANG that was published in THE LAST BALCONY collection.


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The Ironic Fantastic

Just received my copies of the Winter issue – in two discrete aesthetic volumes – of SEIN UND WERDEN entitled THE IRONIC FANTASTIC as published by Rachel Kendall and edited by Rhys Hughes. It is really an honour for me to appear in this publication. And this represents a rare ‘outing’ for me these days, and I am very grateful to Rachel and Rhys.


Other authors included: Jason E Rolfe, Sissy Pantelis, Hannah F Lawson, Changming Yuan, Henri Jouvial, Chris Kelso, Caleb Wilson, Gaurav Monga, Kristine Ong Muslim, Douglas Thompson, Theo Travis Geller, Bob Lock, W.C. Bamberger, Nikhil Mane, Lou Antonelli, Jonette Stabbert, Ellaraine Lockie, Renuka Mahadevan, Mark Lewis, Steve Dodd, Bill West, Edwin Birch, Aliya Whiteley, Deviant Moon Tarot Deck, Dan Tannenbaum, David Rix, Terry Grimwood, Steven Pirie, Trent Walters, Adele Whittle.

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Real-Time Regained

“Click on this image for my Real-Time Reviews: supporting the known and unknown authors of good imaginative literature in a ground-breaking leitmotif / gestalt fashion from Nov 2008 to Oct 2012.”

That’s something I wrote on my site last October, having decided to retire, around the age of 65, from what was becoming an onerous, if enjoyable and hopefully altruistic, task.

Having conducted, in recent days, this experiment in real-time reviewing of Nicholas Royle’s FIRST NOVEL and QUILT, I am having a ‘second wind’. I must have passed through this  marathon ‘wall’!

For this purpose, I have pre-ordered WHITSTABLE (Spectral Press) by Stephen Volk, TALLEST TALES (Eibonvale Press) by Rhys Hughes, JANE (Chômu Press) by PF Jeffery, DEHISCENCE (Ex Occidente Press) by DP Watt and THE LAST GOLD OF DECAYED STARS (Ex Occidente Press) by Colin Insole – and I intend to resume my regular RTRs of future editions of BLACK STATIC (TTA Press) and THEAKER’S QUARTERLY FICTION and anything else that catches my eye, but please remember I continue not to accept free review copies of books.

Eventually these new RTRS will be listed and linked here.

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My favourite books of 2012

sv4I have just sat in my thinking-dome and come up with my picks of books published in 2012 (in addition to THE LAST BALCONY and THE FIRST BOOK OF CLASSICAL HORROR STORIES and BUSY BLOOD!):

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Dadaoism – an anthology from Chômu Press

This Hermetic Legislature (an anthology from Ex Occidente Press)

The Ten Dictates of Alfred Tesseller by D.P. Watt

The Truth Spinner – Rhys Hughes

Celebrant – by Michael Cisco

Peel Back The Sky – Stephen Bacon

The Lighthouse – Alison Moore

Motherless Child – Glen Hirshberg

At Dusk – Mark Valentine

Numbered as Sand or the Stars – John Howard

Eyepennies – a novella by Mike O’Driscoll

The Aesthete Hagiographer – Derek John

The Screaming Book of Horror

PS: Two more in comment below.


Watch out for JANE by PF Jeffery in 2013 – that, as part of the ‘Warriors of Love’ series of twelve discrete novels, I predict will, sooner or later, become a best-seller of the highest objective quality, with definite cinematic potential.


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The Next Big Thing – DF Lewis

143 v 2ee

I have just been tagged in the “Next Big Thing” thingie by the biggest thingie of them all: Rhys Hughes.
Thanks, Rhys.

As I understand it, I am to answer the following 10 questions about my next book or work-in-progress, then, with permission, to tag another writer that I think is of interest.

What is the title of your next book?

BEYOND HIRAETH by DF Lewis and others.
A small selection from my collaborations during the 1990s with various writers, whose permission I have received in order to find a publisher for these stories as a single book:

The Sound of Children – DF Lewis & Anthea Holland (fantasque 2000)
Variations on the Vile – DF Lewis & Richard Gavin (Book of Dark Wisdom 2003)
Knuckledraggers, Inc. – DF Lewis & John Travis (The Zone 1999)
Popper’s in the Wine – DF Lewis & P.F. Jeffery (Lateral Moves 1998)
In the Belly of the Snake – DF Lewis & Paul Pinn (The Edge 1996)
I Consume That of the Edge of Exquisite Taste – DF Lewis & Craig Sernotti (Not Dead, But Dreaming 1997)
The London Fairground – DF Lewis & Allen Ashley (The Heliograph 1999)
Harvest Time – DF Lewis & Gordon Lewis (Enigmatic Tales 2000)
Three Suns For Yesterday – DF Lewis & Jeff Holland (previously shown on-line)
Don’t Drown the Man Who Taught You to Swim – DF Lewis & David Mathew (Redsine 2002, Paranoid Landscapes 2006)
The Fat Bat – DF Lewis & Scott Urban (Octobyr 1998)
Tale With Unknown Collaborator – DF Lewis & Carlton Mellick (previously shown on-line)
The Slippery Pearls – DF Lewis & Mike Philbin/Hertzan Chimera (Masque 1995)
NITS – DF Lewis & Paul Bradshaw (Voyage 1999)
Tungus – DF Lewis & Jeff Holland (Rictus 1995)
The Shoal – DF Lewis & Lawrence Dyer (previously shown on-line)
The Moon Pool – DF Lewis & M.F. Korn (Eraserhead Press 2001)
The Quest of the Mouther – DF Lewis & Rhys Hughes (Visions 1997)
The Swimming Pool – DF Lewis & Tony Mileman
Disaffected Blood – DF Lewis & David Price (Unhinged 2000)
Tiny Hooks and Dainty Door-Keys – DF Lewis & Mark McLaughlin (Flesh & Blood 2003)
Mary’s Broken House – DF Lewis & Dominy Clements (previously shown on-line)
The Winged Menace – DF Lewis & John B Ford (The Evil Entwines 2002)
Finnegan Awake – DF Lewis & Simon Woodward (shown on-line)
This Flight Tonight – DF Lewis & Gary Couzens (Substance 1994, Second Contact 2003)
Remission – DF Lewis & Anthea Holland (Roadworks 1996)

Any publisher who sees this ‘Next Big Thing’ and likes the idea, please contact me.

NB: The multiple collaborationss with Stuart Hughes are already published as BUSY BLOOD (2012)), with Gordon Lewis as ONLY CONNECT (1998) and as A MAN TOO MEAN TO BE ME (2012)), while those with Tim Lebbon are to be published in 2013 as LET’S EAT MONSTERS and with Marge Simon as THE HORN’S LAST RITE also to be published in 2013. (The WORDHUNGER collaborations now published by me in 2012.)

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

It sort of came to me that there was a lot of great material going to waste sitting on my blogs which nobody knew was there. I wondered if these, when placed together as a whole, actually represented the best example of my theory regarding ‘gestalt real-time reviewing’ or ‘the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction’ both of which I recently discussed on-line when Chômu Press interviewed me. All this happens in some oblique way that will gradually cohere — as the stories paradoxically jostle and blend their relationships by being ‘frozen’ on paper.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

A genre that I would call Disturbing Fiction.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The writer-collaborators themselves!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Fiction depicting an evilly balanced dilemma between madness and sanity.

(6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

As I did with my novella ‘Weirdtongue’ and with my two collections ‘Weirdmonger’ and  ‘The Last Balcony’, this will be by attritional word-of mouth without submitting them via or directly to anyone, till a publisher approaches me!

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The years between 1992 and 2000. This was done piecemeal and with firewalls between participants as cross-sectioned by timeframes and discrete human brains, mostly by snail mail. This is the first draft unlike any other first drafts, consequently.

8) What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?

I don’t think there is anything with which to compare it!

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Small Press world of the 1990s, my friends there, Light’s List, Scavenger’s Newsletter…

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The actual process of these uniquely ‘DFL-stirred’ concoctions with ‘veils and piques/peeks’, ‘vales and peaks’, in conjunction with manifold separate souls or mock-‘Proustian Selves’, seems to me to have created fictions unlike any other in the history of literature. The book may well pique many readers (like any book may do) but, here, the stories themselves need to be piqued in turn, i.e. by the process of being read igniting their ‘authonomous’ gestalt. 

I now pass the ‘Next Big Thing’ to someone who, among her body of work, recently had published what I consider to be a truly amazing story (Songs For Dead Children) in ‘The First Book of Classical Horror Stories’: Aliya Whiteley.


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The Screaming Book of Horror

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

A hardback book I purchased from the publisher:

THE SCREAMING BOOK OF HORROR – edited by Johnny Mains

Screaming Dreams 2012

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 other real-time reviews from 2008 are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

Authors included: John Llewellyn Probert, John Brunner, Alison Littlewood, Robin Ince, Bernard Taylor, Anna Taborska, Paul Finch, Rhys Hughes, Kate Farrell, Alex Miles, Craig Herbertson, Alison Moore, Claire Massey, Reginald Oliver, David A. Riley, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Burke, Christopher Fowler, Janine-Langley Wood, Johnny Mains, Charles Higson. (8 Oct 12 – Noon bst)


Christenings Can Be Dangerous – John Llewellyn Probert
“Well, a graveyard wasn’t such a bad place to be scared in,…”
This is an interesting case study to start this book with. Babies often scream even when they’re not scared, you see, but Horror concerning innocent babies can be shocking, and this one, for me, is! That, despite a humorous tone with a slight tongue in a slight cheek. Gratuitously horrific (unless one accepts these strange outcomes of the protagonist’s retributory madness regarding his ex)… and iconoclastic in terms of today’s  mœurs. Yet I wondered, would I have thought it was so shocking had I experienced this in the 1960s or 1970s within the Pan Books of Horror that I read at that time?  Rhetorical question. As a story in itself, at the beginning, it seems artificially to withdraw authorial omniscience regarding the protagonist’s thought processes, then meting these processes out to us regarding the circumstances of the christening church’s yew tree etc before Hell breaks loose (the latter scene very effective, TOO effective!) (8 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm)

[As is common with all my RTRs, I shall avoid other reviews and the book’s own introduction until after I have read and publicly reviewed the whole book.] (8 Oct 12 – 4.30 pm bst)

Larva – John Brunner
“‘Larva’, she amplified, ‘is a Latin word that originally meant both spectre and mask.'”
One’s whole body as the mask for self? This is another shockingly cross-grain story, one that revels in iconoclasm and PUS. It tells of uncouth muggers who prey on ‘poofters’ and ‘nignogs’, with, here, another baby victim (what chances that any anthology could start with consecutive stories that both themselves start with nipples being bitten!) – a baby who takes revenge not only for what happens in this story but what happened in the previous story! Meanwhile, I take suck or succour from this work not for its run-of-the-mill  morality tale of the protagonist’s eventual meted-out come-uppance but for its brilliant metaphysical larva conceit. And its  accomplishedly conveyed PUS AND VOMIT. [I thought John Brunner wrote SF and died some years ago, unless this is a different John Brunner or an uncharacteristic long-lost horror story discovered by Mr Mains?] (8 Oct 12 – 7.30 pm bst)

The Swarm – Alison Littlewood
“As jellyfish thrive they feed upon fish eggs and larvae,…”
…and thus the cycle goes on, here a calmer cosmic osmosis as it turns out stemming from the crueller, laddish threads set up by the two previous stories. Here the cruelty of the swarm – skilfully imbued with the tang of the sea – somehow becomes a spiritual culmination of the earth soul that may have been seeded from literature like that of John Cowper Powys (whom I serendipitously happen already to be reading). But there is an added frisson when we read in the Littlewood that each participant in the gestalt-‘creature’-from-leitmotifs (represented by a line of glowing lights) has 24 seemingly brain-disconnected eyes and then compare this to the creature with a ‘myriad of tiny pink eyes’ in the Probert. The fact that Littlewood’s  protagonist, at story’s end, is still narrating post-culmination (on the precise point of becoming beyond consciousness) did not seem to matter. This throws a retrospective light on Probert’s earlier gradual going up the gears of narrative omniscience… (9 Oct 12 – 3.05 pm bst)

[It hadn’t quite dawned on me fully how Littlewood’s jellyfish gestalt is arguably an allegory of my earlier stated reference on this page to my real-time reviewing technique of accreting leitmotifs (light motifs) to form a gestalt – nor how the overall title of this anthology is something that my edited ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’ anthology book (horror stories about actual Horror anthology books) would have loved to contain a story about a Screaming Book of Horror! In fact, thinking about it, was there one? I shall have to re-read it!] (9 Oct 12 – 6.15 pm bst)

Natural Selection – Robin Ince
“…not a bad structure really for the accident-prone system of evolution by natural selection and its adaptation of previous fish parts along the way.”
…and so the cycle continues from story to story. Here, a gem of a Horror Story, truncated to prose perfection, except it’s about the problem of what exactly to truncate in order to travel “along the timeline” (the book’s audit trail toward its gestalt?) so as to provide that perfect potential of a baby, screamer or not. Here, ostensibly a feminist tract, where, like in the Probert, the protagonist (this time female) seeks to truncate  her next ex and his baby but, here, by creating a new baby, a better one!  Gratuitousness  with a moral, like the Brunner. The image of cutting off  a human ear is wonderfully done. [As an aside, without ears, one cannot hear screams, only see them, like the one in Munch’s scream.] “…when was he going to stop screaming?” (9 Oct 12 – 7.05 pm bst)

[Further to my comment above about ‘The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies’, I have found in it a quote (i.e. from the Rhys Hughes story): “Wasting no more time on nostalgia, he cut out the entire Appendix and cast it aside. It was bloated and disgusting. The book screamed during the operation, but it was over in seconds.” (I note there is a Rhys Hughes story I’ve yet to read in ‘The Screaming Book of Horror’). Also, the story in the HA of HA entitled ‘Common Myths and Misconceptions Regarding Rita Kendall’ by AJ Kirby is predominantly about a scream: in fact the most famous audible scream in the world!] (9 Oct 12 – 7.35 pm bst)




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Kenny Everett

I well remember listening to Kenny Everett live on Big L (Radio London on the North Sea) as he shared the microphone, while publicly training to be a DJ, with Tony Windsor (aka Tony Withers) in 1965. I was studying for my A Levels while listening on my transistor.
Even at that early stage he was an obvious STAR.

Great actor (Oliver Lansley) playing him on the BBC4 TV play, ‘In the Best Possible Taste’.

In many ways Kenny’s DJ technique reminds me of the literary technique of Rhys Hughes… And vice versa!

(Remember the Kenny and Cash Collision?)

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Long-term project to find an independent publisher for a selection of my collaborations from yesteryear

UPDATED (1.10.12)

Default Logo
**Disturbing Fiction Collaborations with DF Lewis**
(a selection of collaborative stories written and published at the Turn of the Century). The contents are complete below and the manuscript prepared, although there may be one or two more should I be able to contact the writers involved.
If anyone knows a publisher who would be interested in putting these into a book….
The Sound of Children – Anthea Holland (fantasque 2000)
Variations on the Vile – Richard Gavin (Book of Dark Wisdom 2003)
Knuckledraggers, Inc. – John Travis (The Zone 1999)
Popper’s in the Wine – P.F. Jeffery (Lateral Moves 1998)
In the Belly of the Snake – Paul Pinn (The Edge 1996)
I Consume That of the Edge of Exquisite Taste – Craig Sernotti (Not Dead, But Dreaming 1997)
The London Fairground – Allen Ashley (The Heliograph 1999)
Harvest Time – Gordon Lewis (Enigmatic Tales 2000)
Three Suns For Yesterday – Jeff Holland (shown on-line)
Don’t Drown the Man Who Taught You to Swim – David Mathew (Redsine 2002, Paranoid Landscapes 2006)
The Fat Bat – Scott Urban (Octobyr 1998)
Tale With Unknown Collaborator – Carlton Mellick (shown on-line)
The Slippery Pearls – Mike Philbin/Hertzan Chimera (Masque 1995)
NITS – Paul Bradshaw (Voyage 1999)
Tungus – Jeff Holland (Rictus 1995)
The Shoal – Lawrence Dyer (shown on-line)
The Moon Pool – M.F. Korn (Eraserhead Press 2001)
The Quest of the Mouther – Rhys Hughes (Visions 1997)
The Swimming Pool – Tony Mileman
Disaffected Blood – David Price (Unhinged 2000)
Tiny Hooks and Dainty Door-Keys – Mark McLaughlin (Flesh & Blood 2003)
Mary’s Broken House – Dominy Clements (shown on-line)
The Winged Menace – John B Ford (The Evil Entwines 2002)
Finnegan Awake – Simon Woodward (shown on-line)
This Flight Tonight – Gary Couzens (Substance 1994, Second Contact 2003)
Remission – Anthea Holland (Roadworks 1996)
The multiple collabs with Stuart Hughes (already published as BUSY BLOOD) , with Tim Lebbon (to be published as LET’S EAT MONSTERS) and with Marge Simon (to be announced when finalised)…

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The JANE books – by Evadne Price

Has anyone read Evadne Price’s Jane Turpin books that, in their day, arguably represented the girl version of JUST WILLIAM?

Or did the JUST WILLIAM books by Richmal Crompton represent the boy version of JANE?

When I first had access to the internet in 1999, there was nothing available about the JANE books.

Now there is a wikipedia.

Frank R Grey illustrated these books (the image above is by him), although I think William Brown’s Thomas Henry illustrated a few early appearances of Jane Turpin.

I found out years ago about the JANE books from P.F. Jeffery – the author of THE WARRIORS OF LOVE series of novels (unconnected to Jane Turpin but does have a character named Jane).

I believe Rhys Hughes‘ new novel THE YOUNG DICTATOR (judging by its first chapter) is in the Jane Turpin tradition, but extrapolated in his inimitable style. Whether that was his intention or not!



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The Truth Spinner – Rhys Hughes

The Complete Adventures of Castor Jenkins
by Rhys Hughes

A Real-Time Review started 9 August 2012

A book that I purchased direct from the publisher.

Wildside Press 2012

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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

My previous reviews of Rhys Hughes books: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/494-2/

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.


1: The Münchausen of Porthcawl

Castor on Troubled Waters

“…seductive cloud formations, alterations in the shape, colour or tensile strength of the horizon line.”

An intro with not exactly a re-run of the the Epimenides Paradox, but with a new Rhys-Hughesian philosophico-conceit concerning lies (white or black), truths, truisms, fibisms, fictions et al. But here in the first story, I am even more taken with the ambiance of the comrade-ship of a Welsh pub. My Welsh granddad was reputed to have spent most of his time in Llanelli (not too far from Porthcawl) during the 1920-1950 era with a pint in his hand and the pubtalk (pubtalk being neither lies or truths) in his mouth or in his ears as he sat amid the environs of a working-class saloon bar.  All true.  This story takes this a stage further: both intellectually mind-boggling and hilarious to the nth degree. A tall story to end all pub talk, particularly as our protagonist finishes up telling about being ‘tall’ in a ship’s crow’s nest employed by pirates. For fear of spoilers, I won’t tell you about the rationale and purpose of this tall story or about the astonishing Child-is-Father-of-the-Man conceit involved or the way-station for messages-in-a-bottle. It is just simply high-quality, readily comprehensible literature that will sharply awaken your philosophical-absurdist buds and make you think seriously, too, about life and existence and those conversational gambits in the territory of fib-excusement and truth, i.e. thus making you think seriously between the laughter you will be forced to emit when reading it. No exaggeration. (9 Aug 12 – 11.00 am bst)

Canis Raver

“Have you any idea what it feels like to be tickled from the inside?”

Only by reading Rhys Hughes fiction, I suggest!  This fascinating story extrapolates on ‘the molecular interchange theory’ with the example of bicycles and their human  riders … then glove puppets and their manipulating hands, and, inspired by this, I, in turn, extrapolate on author and reader in that respect. But seriously — even though this story is sufficiently unserious to be enjoyable from the way-station of the Welsh pub and its pub talk whereby the (my pretentious Latin term, not the story’s) ‘genius loci’ of Swansea is radically manipulated so as to manipulate who visits it or returns to it — I am no glove puppet type of reader!  I think you, too, will discover this – especially with Rhys Hughes, I feel, cutting any readers worth their salt some intellectual slack, thus making his stories rather more like a provocative synergy than a freak’s control. (9 Aug 12 – 1.55 pm bst)

The Plucked Plant

“How does one commit suicide without committing suicide?”

Those who are in a frame of mind to do so, read this! But wait a moment. I’m sure my old granddad in Llanelli didn’t have pubtalk quite like the rarified version into which the pubtalk in this book is gradually developing … as if pubtalk itself can reincarnate… Or synergise like Plato and Socrates, or vice versa, whichever is the glove puppet.  This story, meanwhile, is an intriguing Dialogue in the Platonic Form of Pubtalk, with the prose style now more textured, and the jokes arguably more sophisticated, including the funniest ever Pythagoras Theorem joke that happens to be relegated to a footnote! The story’s plucked plant, you ask? Just one stage in the karmic pecking order of stooges, I suggest. Reincarnation, meanwhile, if necessarily in slow motion, seems to go much quicker when some of its stages or stooges are forgotten (plucked?) during any process of Regression: just like the Wise to someone’s Morecambe? (9 Aug 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

When Wales Played Asgård

The glory days of Welsh rugby were in the 1970s, everyone knows that,…”

Well, I’m not sure my old Welsh granddad (himself a pubtalker fan of Rugby Union, based on my own memory of him) would agree – especially as he never lived to see the 1970s (nor most of the 1960s!) — Meanwhile, this further tall story takes on an aspect of truth by its undercurrent of thoughtfulness regarding the nature of ‘nostalgia’: by means of an enjoyable vision of a Nationalistic rugby match between the dead and the undead and the alive with an upper trump of Norse mythology as keynote (I knew my Welsh granddad as Ki (pronounced ‘key’)). I suppose it is topical, today, to mention the Olympic Games, where such feats and ambitions and Nationalisms hold sway: except why not Rugby Union with its characteristic oval ball?  But in 2012 Olympics, our football (‘soccer’) team was not Welsh or English or Scottish, but Team GB! And all that seems to throw an interesting extra light on this highly entertaining  (on the surface level) and provocative (on a deeper level) and absurdist (on our Postmodern Mariner’s taller level) story’s need to exungulate the drogulus…or at least the bus to Porthcawl. (10 Aug 12 – 9.45 am bst)

Interstellar Domestic

“I am one of the cleverest and most resourceful men you are ever likely to meet, a devious manipulator of objects and people, a cunning and ruthless schemer, a twisted egotist…”

FTL travel by ‘illusory principle’ is wasted, I agree, if one is only going on a relatively short journey to the moon, however obsessively lovely and earth-centrist the moon’s waves or astrology control is.  There are many genuinely mind-stretching and semi-Whovian concepts in this story — too numerous to describe or put in order upon the truth-lie spectrum (and the author’s arithmetic skills are frightening) — but the main thing I shall take away from this example of the ‘on the other side of the moon’s rainbow’ school of SF literature (my generic term, not the story’s) is Castor’s two regular subjected co-pubtalkers becoming an actual part of the small talk tall story themselves. Meanwhile, I am going to start a campaign for a lighthouse to take over from that ludicrous black police box as a far more sensible, truth-friendly choice. (10 Aug 12 – 1.35pm bst)

The Cream-Jest of Unset Custard

“…for they were simple horror story background characters and took everything too seriously.”

Relatively rarely (and I have mentioned a tiny few examples of this before in my reviews), Rhys Hughes’ stories can hit the wrong note for me: like here, sometimes textually self-referential in a clumsy way and with some weak jokes, without that unique mind-stretching conceit that is his forte. A trifle’s trifle. Having said that, this story starts in an engaging Lord-Dunsanyan way and, later, there is some hilarious, rich, well-honed Horror Story pastiche prose leading to Cthulhu’s birthday party! It also has the subtext of Rhys Hughes’ well-documented, long-held  view on Horror Literature and those who perpetrate it or enjoy reading it. The question Castor Jenkins has to ask himself, however — is his presence enough to make that subtext creatively ironic? My belief is that Castor thinks the same as me: i.e. that so-called Horror Literature has many constructively blurred Venn Diagrams with SF, Fantasy, Humour, Absurdism, Surrealism and weird and/or  literary literature.  Being half-Welsh as I am,  I do not need to have created Castor Jenkins to be able to share some secrets with him of which his sponsoring author is unaware.  That the Macedonian girl was a spoiler. (10 Aug 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

The Day the Town of Porthcawl was Accidentally Twinned with the Capital of the Cheese and Biscuits Empire

“It was impossible to see anything through the windows: they were speckled with ancient trapped moonlight.”

Forgetfulness Honey allows me to forget any trifling quibbles about the previous story, as Castor goes on a shopping errand beyond Porthcawl for cigarettes as a habit-breaking theme and variations on Zeno’s Paradox – via Chaud-Mellé, wherefrom twinning is not only between horizon-breaking distant towns but also between Castor and Pollux in Gemini, plus a train made from hardened sea-salt and the running of a water-clock on urine… Hmmm, I think I need some more Forgetfulness Honey… (10 Aug 12 – 7.20 pm bst)

2. Tribulations of the Human Bean

The Monkey’s Pawpaw

“…there’s no smoke without fire, no eyelash without an eyelid, no afterimage without collusion.”

Judging by the title of this story, we have just left the Cheese and Biscuits Empire and arrived in the land of WWW.Jacobs Cream Crackers! I am relieved, more importantly, to be back in the Welsh pubtalk pub, with Castor’s two cronies and Castor himself with a story that is true genius MRJamesian tall tale of ecclesiastical roof-hauntings. As a reader, as opposed to a listener in the pub, I was all eyes with anticipation….laced with an ontological or teleological core self-perception as the nub of monstrous religion and the nature of inverted-word Dog (my extrapolation, not necessarily the story’s) – and there is the best joke of the book so far (no mean feat) concerning ‘apemen’.  The plot has a splendid core self-reversal collusion ending and, throughout it, a thought-provoking study of the synergy or otherwise of two separate but simultaneous spells being cast. (11 Aug 12 – 10.25 am bst)



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BFS Journal – Spring 2012

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

It is a paperback book I received yesterday as part of my membership subscription to the BFS.

British Fantasy Society Journal – Spring 2012

Published by the BFS

Editors: Lou Morgan, Guy Adams, Ian Hunter

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 other real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

As is common with all my real-time reviews, I shall only be reviewing the fiction and poetry. There is much else in this book I anticipate enjoying.  My previous real-time review of a BFS publication: BFS Journal (Winter 2010).

The authors as they appear in the Journal: Jonathan Oliver, Zoe Elizabeth Barrett, Kelda Crich, Neil Fulwood, Rhys Hughes, David Glen Larson, Grant Quimper, Marie O’Regan, John DesPlaines, Fiona Moore, Allen Ashley, Garry Kilworth.


don’t you like the bird man? – Jonathan Oliver

“At the convention the two of them had picked up several awards for A Murder of Crows and now they were at Midtown Comics, drinking complimentary booze and meeting the fans.”

A story worthy of  the legendary long-running 1990s magazine: ‘A Nasty Piece of Work’ – in plain prose an  exercise in extrapolating from the creativity of seamlessly blending art and story: that, then, here, blends further into real life: a story of a monstrous bird man, and the writer’s wife’s regression to abuse in her childhood. Honestly nasty, but leaving a thoughtful aftertaste regarding life’s hidden motives and waking undercurrents  deriving from sometimes meaningless, sometimes meaningful nightmares. [I  became muddled about section breaks when coupled with page breaks on at least two occasions and I also spotted a loose comma. Having already riffled through the rest of the book, I noticed that the ‘don’t you like the birdman’ title is shown on the second page of the Rhys Hughes story.] (29 Apr 12 – 9.20 am bst)

morningmares (poem) – Zoë Elizabeth Barrett

in darkness, deep as death,”

Graceful horror lines that seem the perfect coda to the previous story: inasmuch as haunting by day blends with hunting by night: those waking dreams from nightmares being factored into real life…and vice versa. (29 Apr 12 – 9.35 am bst)

shadow whisperer at black hole hotel (poem) – Kelda Crich

“Don’t look into ink-space face.”

A woman born from the actual paper text’s dark enjambement: from TS Eliot, Bob Dylan, with a touch of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel?  And, thankfully, more I can’t quite pin down. Sinewy – and good. Wouldn’t work psychologically as well in ebook format, I feel.  [‘Add you life’ –> ‘Add your life’?] (29 Apr 12 – 12.25 pm bst)

the call of chavthulu – Neil Fulwood

Sorry, I’ve tried to read this but – probably due to my own shortcomings – I cannot read pages and pages of a story in such mock-dialect. I just can’t do it. It may be brilliant – should one be able to get past that hurdle. (29 Apr 12 – 12.55 pm)

jenny khan – Rhys Hughes

“‘When I go to Parliament,’ said Jenny, ‘I’ll abolish clouds. And I’ll live on cakes and peanuts! And when I’m full, I’ll jump up and down until I’m sick and start eating again!‘”

The older I get, the odder. But never as creatively and constructively and dyslogically odd as Rhys Hughes or, at least, Rhys Hughes’ work.  This is genuinely one of his greater pieces (and quite different from, if the same as, most of the other works I’ve read of his); good job! It takes up about 30 pages of this Journal. Worth every page.  It starts off with Jenny as a wonderful new take on Jane Turpin (by Evadne Price), a young girl version of Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’, but better.  And it evolves into a major satiric, Lewis-Carrollian ironic-fantasy: absurdist, hootingly funny, with at least half serious undercurrents about Parliament and voting, and power, and monarchy, and the Middle Class, and Machiavelli: with so many wonderful new Rhys-Hughesian conceits: eg: Alky / Alchemist, Jingo /Bingo, buying years for the amount of their numerical ‘name’: with all manner of larger-than-life characters and references like the one to the Guy who tried to blow up Parliament: and Whovian statue-blinks, Whovian mayhem in Westminster, slime things underground etc. Even a version of Facebook for Dictators. And much much more. The prose is plain and short-paragraphed (not usually to my taste), but the ideas scintillate. And it’s thought-provoking, too, if you have any thoughts to be provoked.  It even has childish conceits, to go with the more clever ones, like not finding any kangaroos in a kangaroo court. And the ending is not bathetic. It’s almost touching.  (29 Apr 12 – 3.05 pm bst)

As for the book’s gestalt, the ‘Jenny Khan’ absurdist syndrome is perhaps, inadvertently, a subtle symbol of the woman about to emerge from the Crich poem and feistily resisting any girl’s ‘abuse’ backstory touched upon by the Oliver story. The politically correct incorrectness of Hughes’ quantatative teasing. (29 Apr 12 -3.25 pm bst)

doorways (poem) – David Glen Larson

“But he being me didn’t know.”

What I call a plainstyle poem, yet skilfully carrying a metaphysical punch – derived from the ‘Dark Tower’ doorways between universes – with an interesting twist.

Further book credits: Design: Cavan Scott – Cover Illustration: Chris Roberts  (30 Apr 12 – 8.20 am bst)

mother’s boy – Grant Quimper

His hand fell onto the wooden grip of a carving knife and he paused for moment to enjoy the soft feel of the handle on his fingers.”

A striking vignette, starting, at relative length, with almost an ‘anti-novel’ precision of descriptive tactility in the making of a cup of tea and other kitchen activities: for example the quote above, where the softness of the fingers are deftly transposed psychologically to the hard handle. He makes the tea, thus, while listening to the screams of his mother before going off to help her. And ending with a “Nasty Piece of Work” slaughter in a Swiftian ‘Modest Proposal’ mode, the carving knife left for the source of the brood…  Effectively sick.

[I wonder whether it is worth my while continuing to seek a gestalt in this book’s fiction / poetry, as is my wont heretofore in real-time reviewing. I think this is the first time where I’m processing works scattered about a book rather than grouped together. In my similar regular real-time reviews, i.e. of Black Static, Interzone, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, BFS Journal: Winter 2010 etc, the fiction is grouped together whereby the gestalt  can seep from one to the other, unlike here. That’s not a criticism, of course, but an observation. Or it may be simply an excuse from me for struggling here to find the usual, almost ‘occult’, gestalt that has always emerged with sweet synchronicity when processing discrete items of fiction that had been deliberately grouped together edge to edge! 😉] (30 Apr 12 – 3.15 pm bst)

listen – Marie O’Regan

‘Then came the wind,’ he said, and the children instinctively moved closer together as the room seemed to fill with whispers borne on the breeze,”

[On reflection, maybe the book’s fiction gestalt was destroyed by my omission of an earlier story –] … yet here I seem to be back on some sort of serendipitous course, with Storyteller O’Regan’s Storyteller starting to tell his story about the wind [I am currently reading Stephen King’s new book ‘The Wind through the Keyhole’ and the latest homework task for our local writers’ group has to have the title “The Wind Whispers” –] and here the children gather around O’Regan’s Storyteller, abandoned in all good faith to this ‘enjoyment’ by their parents in the library. The children’s good faith, too, to listen – to suspend disbelief. One boy in particular grows more and more discomforted by the tenor of the story as if he is the only one present to spot the evil Pied Piper disguised as the Storyteller. A sudden change of point-of-view to the Storyteller then discomforted me – until I realised this was a skilful way to convey the fact that Story now faced Story in some battle: in a world that needs evil so as to create the good by contrast with that evil. The prose is satisfyingly dense, longish-paragraphed: yet it slides easily through the ‘assumed’ reading-ears carrying the transcendent story deeper and deeper into you – with toing and froing – and later the subtle influence of other horror figures but upon whose side they fight is uncertain.  Very effective story indeed reaching an ending that is at first inscrutable – but, on reflection, I think I know what it tells about a child’s life, the future dangers any child faces and the people whom to suspect or whom to depend upon. Very powerful and poignant climax, by innuendo: a final teasing hug for the reader before you depart the layers of storytelling. Listen and thou shalt hear. (30 Apr 12 – 8.20 pm bst)

the  wheel of whumpus (poem) – John DesPlaines

“For inscribed there…are the names of every bad boy and girl”

I think this is a gem of a new old-fashioned nursery-rhyme with a “morality-compass” message threading the near-nonsense verse. It means more than it says and resonates with the girls and boys in the audience of the previous story. Back on track-o with a perpetuo mot-o. (1 May 12 – 7.55 am bst)

the kindly race – Fiona Moore

‘Isn’t that the guy who directed Death in Venice last May?’ she asked.”

An engaging, poignant, well-written, humorous, slightly SF RomCom: with a well-characterised friendship – stretching over many of the years of our recent past – of a lesbian woman and a gay guy who are involved with artistic projects (collective drama etc) many of which are all Greek to me. Deals with exploitation of self and others: dealing with ends and means: immortality and Ishiguro-type clones, sexual politics, business ethics. Loved it. Like ‘the wheel of whumpus’, a morality-compass.  Like the audience and storyteller in ‘listen’, the gullibility of “longevity, not youthening“: and a superb ending that reminded me of a side-show climax of a Freaks film: factored into by an earlier telling reference (hidden in the text) to the poem ‘Tithonus’ by Tennyson that I’ve just re-read. I’m off to get my Greek haircut now. (1 May 12 – 9.30 am bst)

faerie mails – Allen Ashley

“I have read you over the ether and I know we can connect.”

A wittily dotty series of phishing spam emails that remind me of Ramsey Campbell’s instigated real-time thread ‘Amazing Rubbish’ here and some of the devices in his book ‘The Grin of the Dark’. Also resonates with the phishing promise of immortality and its implicit traps from the previous story.  Just fill in the dots. Rumpelstiltskin had a thing about Greek haircuts, too, I guess. All upon the weirdmonger ‘wheel of whumpus’ that is the internet. (1 May 12 – 10.00 am bst)

the fabulous beast – Garry Kilworth

It seemed as if the edges were melding together, […] …texts on the hides. I studied the edges of the scrolls and found their rippling hems locked together like pieces of a jigsaw.”

OMG, I think this is my Holy Grail of a gestalt in all my years of real-time reviewing. Why did I mention ‘edges’ of stories through which they seep together earlier in this review? Here this concept reaches something I did not expect when I said that: something so uncanny for me, I think there is a tadness of ‘occult’ about this process, after all! Taken on its own, this Kilworth story is a genuinely original mad scientist story, touching on gaia undercurnents worthy of Algernon Blackwood (cf The Centaur) and the ‘workshop of filthy creation’ in Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. On top of that discreteness as a compelling story in or out of this book’s context, ‘fabulous beast’ echoes the immortality theme of the Moore (even explicitly mentioning a ‘freak circus’ in the Kilworth), the ‘birth’  of those autonomous creatures in the O’Regan, and the destruction of the ‘brood‘ in the Quimper: and the emergence of the bird man in the Oliver, ‘the wheel of whompus’ now spinning so hard it brings into explicit being, here in the Kilworth, the very Parthenogenesis theme with which I was obsessed when I started the ‘parthenogenetic fiction’ (and ‘late-labelling’) with ‘Nemonymous’ (cf: for example, ‘Sexy Beast’ by Tony Mileman in issue 4 (2004)).  And the “Zoo” mentioned here echoes Cern Zoo….

This is a brilliant mixed bag of fictions and poems. Tantalisingly unified as well as a variety  of styles and subjects. Whether editorially intentional or not to create this effect, I am awestruck. And apologies again to Neil Fulwood. Who knows what his story may have factored into the edgy melting-pot. (1 May 12 – 11.00 am)


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My reading-lifetime’s Hall of Fame

Image by Tony Lovell (2011)

My reading-lifetime’s Hall of Fame in no particular order:

Charles Dickens, Christopher Priest, AS Byatt, Enid Blyton, May Sinclair, HP Lovecraft, Barbara Vine, Reggie Oliver, Anita Brookner, WG Sebald, Jeremy Reed, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Bowen, Stephen King, Oliver Onions, Marcel Proust, Salman Rushdie, Glen Hirshberg, Paul Auster, Mark Valentine, John Fowles, Edgar Allan Poe, John Cowper Powys, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, Jack Vance, Philip K Dick, Jeff VanderMeer, Samuel R Delany, Anthony Burgess, Susanna Clarke, Rhys Hughes, Lawrence Durrell, MR James, Robert Aickman, Sarban, Ramsey Campbell, Thomas Ligotti, Tommaso Landolfi, Kazuo Ishiguro, Quentin S. Crisp.

This is a list including writers I once considered in my Hall of Fame but now rarely read, and new writers whose works I read quite a lot and have included in my Hall of Fame fairly recently and variations upon that, but all have been major reading experiences some time in my life.  Apologies to those I’ve inadvertently omitted because of my semi-Proustian memory.


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Sangria in the Sangraal


by Rhys Hughes

A Real-Time Review started 16 March 2012

 Passport Levant MMXI

 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: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

All my Ex Occidente Press (Passport Levant) real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.


The Shapes Down There

He smiled as he regarded his subjects from his balcony.”

A memorably ‘fabulous’ conversation of clouds as they circle around debating the ‘as-above, so-below’ empirically-tested synchronicity of Mankind’s affairs as perceived flashmobs, a synchronicity with the Universe (including clouds possessing a motive force beyond even the weather’s control that created them) — i.e. rather than Astrological cause-and-effect.  The ‘affair’ in question here is the festive firelight blaze of the Emir of Albarracín, Huydayl Djalaf’Izz ad-Dawla. No dawdler, though.  As a bonus track, there is a brilliant sketch of the purpose of ’embers’. [I was wondering whether at one point – where ‘clouds’ are spelt as ‘clods’ – this was a meaningfully back-handed slant at the imperious clouds by the author (reputedly a member himself of the moving feasts of Mankind) – because, in all good literature, one can’t often differentiate clever wordplay from mis-fingered typo.  A rare intentional or unintentional typo, for me, is one of those “transient shapes” like an ember in the fiery “festivities” of words.] (16 Mar 12 – 11.15 am gmt)

The Spare Hermit

Incidentally, the first cliché was created by accident…”

When I was going to St Ives… no, when Murk (short for Murkales or a recurring typo for Mark?) was going to Albarracín (fast becoming this book’s epic-centre), he met people whose names ended -urk or started Kru-. A clever, thought-provoking fable – I think in this book Rhys Hughes may be more a fabulist than a fictionatronicist (or possibly a blend of both): and, in this one, where people as well as places are back-ups for each other towards maintaining an optimum reality by having a plan in place to obviate drop-outs. Or that’s how I read it. “Back then, in the 11th century, it was commonly supposed that winds slept in caverns when not blowing.” A nice touch in this stiff, aesthetically heavy-duty boards, crisp dust-jacket, pages of a landscape book with its own ‘genius loci’: as I turned from page 19 to 20, the book creaked deliciously and, genuinely, the first sentence I then read was: “Finally the massive lock turned and the gate creaked open.” (16 Mar 12 – three hours later)

Sally Forth

“Verily he plummeteth. Ouch!”

This is a dialogue piece in the mould of a Shakespearean comic backstory as if written by Don Quixote about a picaresque Knight rescuing once-called Damsels in Distress and is full of strained, often outrageous, wordplay.  Only this author could thus dare traduce himself. (16 Mar 12 – another hour later)

The Magic Gone

Harold swallowed. ‘Why shoot an arrow at a cloud?‘”

Time’s Arrow?  This is a substantial Whovian intrigue: of a time-traveller to Albarracín; Emirate political ploys — as factored into this book’s erstwhile optimum reality ‘spares’ or ‘back-ups’ — mix with minstrels and troubadours; and a conundrum concerned, for me, with Toynbeean history; whether Challenge comes before Response, or, paradoxically, vice versa.  “I swear I’m not a liar! I’m a time traveller!” (16 Mar 12 – another three hours and 20 minutes later, i.e 6.35 pm gmt)

Sangria in the Sangraal

So he turned to shooting birds down from the sky; he had heard that men in olden days riddled the clouds with shafts to make rain, but he thought that foolish.

Cloud-inducing takes on a new slant following the earlier stories. I think somewhere in a previous story a cloud turned into a teapot!  That, too, now takes on a new slant.  This is a Hughesian gem: one that will, sooner or later, be included within a select collection of his work in Penguin Classics.  The would-be knightly protagonist here doesn’t fire arrows into the clouds for rain but to kill storks in order ostensibly to prevent babies being delivered by this means to the Saracen enemy as future soldiers.  And his mother was sickly and prescribed red wine. Only this story can tell you how this fits with Sangria in the Sangraal being drunk by her — Sangraal not being a region of Spain like Extremadura or La Rioja  as I think I might shamefully have once assumed when I first glimpsed the title of this book. (16 Mar 12 – another 2 hours later)

The Man Toucan

I must point out, however, that it may be a century or more before anyone else comes this way again.”

…like this book. Only 102 copies of this bottle with a genie loco.  Seriously, this is a delightfully unserious philosophical fable by the Arch Fabulist and Fictionatronicist named Rhys Hughes or (according to his oft-times used avatar in this very (God)forsaken internet universe) Man Toucan himself or itself. Unserious, but the philosophy itself in this fable is potentially serious: teaching me much more of Ontology and Teleology regarding the Existence of God than any real philosophy book, and Deist Bifurcation and the possibility of sharing responsibility (moral or otherwise) and power (omnipotence). ‘Sharing’ like those ‘back-ups’ and ‘spares’? And there are more clouds here and a part of Spain (like Sangraal) that God didn’t know existed till He came to look for Himself. A genuine masterpiece, this fable, exceeding even the previous one.  Refreshingly delightful in tone. (17 Mar 12 – 8.40 am gmt)

[I’ve just discovered, under this book’s stiff-mannered dust-jacket, there is embossed on the front of the board-cover: YOU AND I < YOUR PAST + MY ETERNITY > DEATH IN ARAGON. At the moment I can’t get to the bottom of this (something to do with Louis Aragon: a poet I read last in the 1960s?). Whatever the case, these are the sole words upon the whole hard-board cover beneath the dust-jacket. So, if the dust-jacket is ever separated from it, someone finding such a bare copy or (dare I say?) ‘spare’ of this book in, for example, a mythical secondhand bookshop, he or she will be stymied as to its identity unless he or she opens it… (17 Mar 12 – another 15 minutes later)]

[I’ve just noticed this in the book’s CONTENTS :
The Man Toucan…………………………………………………………56
Latitude, Longtitude and Plenitude……………………………..68
The Kind Generosity of Theophrastus Tautology…………57
Scaramouche’s Pouting Mouth……………………………………..95 ] (17 Mar 12 – another 15 minutes later)

Latitude, Longtitude and Plenitude

The fleeing clouds were formless, unlike those of my childhood town, isolated but noble Albarracín, forgotten up the mountains, where every vapour was an actor with a shape not its own.”

[My personal immodest brainstorming:- I know now, quite independently, that earlier ‘clods’ was not a typo at all. Of Clods and Clouds – there is a type of human study this book is subtly enacting without the reader really realising: that people have their clouds and they have their clods.  Which of us is which? Only clouds can tell, I guess, so if you can tell I am a cloud not a clod, you, too, are a cloud like me.  And this story sort of embodies such considerations obliquely: and that often in  one latitude-longtitude clouds are clods and in another: vice versa; etc.  A new Geography of Ethics].  This story, like the previous one, has a bottle with communicative contents: here, a real torn-short book-like page of a message that contrasts ethics with the narrator who reads what is in the bottle with a skewed or straight vision of ethics because of his father’s perceived mores by skewed prejudice or straight honour as embodied in another, complementary, document.  Simply, though, taken at face value, this is a truly memorable tale-within-a-tale of a Robinson Crusoe type shipwrecking on an island – with skewed or straight reference to the times of the Spanish Armada that sailed to England – a protagonist whose treatment by the natives and his own loyalties to his home town: solves a problem of posterity. Or he thinks it does. And all of us (particularly those who are writers of literature) have the same dilemmas of skewed and straight vision: of one’s own likely posterity. And with the ‘posterity’ theme that pans out fascinatingly here, we have the plenitude of ‘spares’ again: part of that hopefully failsafe message whence our shipwrecked message-in-a-bottle perpetrator of shaky posterity fulsomely creates: something on the island as both message and posterity: and as part of the author’s ingenious interpretation of the new Geography of Ethics: and I will not spoil it by telling you about its exact nature here. But suffice to say that each of its ‘spares’ is slightly different from the next one. A bit like all the delightfully bespoke Ex Occidente books and John Howard’s postage stamps in the ‘Secret Europe’ book I real-time reviewed recently…  (17 Mar 12 – another two and half hours later)

The Kind Generosity of Theophrastus Tautology

I know what clouds truly are! Sky sheep, that’s what!”

[After reading this story, I now know why the contents page only had this coming one page after ‘The Man Toucan’ with the Latitude-Longtitude ethics story squeezed out!   A pagination-imagination trick of genius!  Cf: a similar, if quite different, trick in ‘Secret Europe’ concerning Z and 26. And I also know why, this time, there is no handwritten number at the back of my edition of the ‘Sangria ‘book at all!  This book does not exist at all!  And it is now clear why and how but I wonder if it will return in time for me to read the next story!] — This story, meanwhile, brilliantly makes references to previous characters* and incidents in this book, including the Grail (Sangraal).  Essentially, though, it is a nod towards Monty Python regarding the Spanish Inquisition, but, here, with a quite hilarious originality that makes me think I’ve now got it all wrong in what I said above about Clods and Clouds. This author is toying with his projected reader.  The fact that I can see that does not make his toying with me any the less! [Regarding clouds: I have been obsessed with cloud-racing ever since I can remember: and this has been brought out in some of my own fiction over the years. An example is shown in the third ‘comment’ below on this page which I placed there a few minutes ago in preparation for this entry.]  (17 Mar 12 – 1.20 pm gmt)

Scaramouche’s Pouting Mouth

Yes, I am juggling with dynamite, but it’s quite safe. I am a skilled performer.”

[There are now 128 pages in this book – including start and end material – e.g. an Author’s Forward (that I shall read for the first time after I’ve completed this review) and a colour frontispiece of what looks like a dressing-table for a midget plus a few blank pages etc.] This is the tale of a war-time clown, by profession, who is left as the only clown alive after the battle: he fears he may be a coward as he travels to where his father once visited: our epic-centre: Albarracín.  (I wonder whether ‘clown’, ‘coward’ and ‘cloud’ are meant to resonate as they did for me.)  This is another wonderful story, re-echoing the conceit of ‘spares’ – even the thought of ‘hawling’ (as I call it in my own novel) towns or cities from one level of the earth to another. Here eventually with a double bluff upon the clown himself! And it’s no accident, I suggest that the ‘magic’ of such prestidigitative ‘hawling’ happens with a “cloud of dust” like a swish of abracadabra! (17 Mar 12 – another 55 minutes later)

Knossos in Its Glory

Commuting as a custom was extinct, as dead as dodos, tigers and books. Simple fact.”

A SF digitilisation-extrapolation which is this book’s coda: an explicitly neat inner-gestalt of all Albarracíns, spare or otherwise. Earlier, I have been playfully calling Albarracín the book’s ‘epic-centre’ as a variant on ‘epicentre’ – so imagine my sheer astonishment, here, when it truly becomes an ‘epic’-centre for an epic film. This had happened because — being lost from or forgotten by the audit-trails of so-called ‘progress’ – it hadn’t become like all the world’s other towns and cities that are now made of some green plastic material!  The whole plot fell down for me however when the author gives one of his characters a ludicrous name like Beltan Braces!

I shall go out on a limb: I have read much Rhys Hughes fiction since the early 1990s and, despite most of it, if not all, being brilliant stuff, I genuinely believe this ‘Sangria’ book to be the best organically thought-provoking and mind-expanding whole.  Fabulous with brazen wit and sparkle: also implicitly gentle and meditative and self-traducing. Making clouds shine even if the world’s sun has gone. (17 Mar 12 – another hour later)


*now in bottles! (18 Mar 12)


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