Monday, December 10, 2018



Edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley
Work by Paul Stephenson, Elaine Ewart, Gary Budgen, Sarah Westcott, Cheryl Pearson, Holly Heisey, Oliva Edwards, Scott Hughes, James Dorr, Kerry Darbishire, Jonathan Edwards, Tonya Walter, Lauren Mason, Setareh Ebrahimi, Ian Steadman, Kate Wise, Frank Roger, Jayne Stanton, William Stephenson, Sandra Unerman, Megan Pattie, Kristin Camitta Zimet, Douglas Thompson, Amanda Oosthuizen, Lindsay Reid, Tarquin Landseer, Elaine Ruth White, David Hartley, Diana Cant, Mary Livingstone, Bindia Persaud, Michael G. Casey, Jane Burn, Jane Lovell, Tracey Emerson, Jenny Grassl, Kerry Darbishire, Hannah Linden, Ian Kappos, Jason Gould.
When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

32 thoughts on “Humanagerie

  1. AQUARIUM DREAMS by Gary Budgen
    “It’s bioluminescent. It glows on its own.”
    Perhaps I was on to something earlier with aluminants…?
    This poetically siphoned portrait of our modern world and a dysfunctional family in it, the violent father as rogue voyager of pubs, staring into his pints, the downtrod mother, the two sons as boys then growing up. The less recriminatory brother, as narrator, is subsumed by the world and its terrorism of dreams and reality, twin towers as aquarium walls, souls aligned with the aquarium of fish that they owned as boys, seeping out its welcome quietude but also its propensity to float to the top…. Specific fish named and described to become ‘objective correlatives’ and mindsets from sump to slump, I infer…. Often stagnant, rarely seething with life. Bottom dwellers, all of us. Never to lift our shark heads again. Unless the sea is willing to take us again? A new evolution? My head as it own aquarium dreams.
    My previous reviews of Gary Budgen:
  2. Beetle, a poem by Sarah Westcott, is addressed to the eponymous scarab, full of wishbone words. Evocative and moving.
    Vixen by Cheryl Pearson, likewise with a new eponym as creature, “I’d rob the world of bones.”
    Augury by Tarquin Landseer, the third discrete poem in this section, is a pica pica panoply of a yackety bird.
    All seem somehow to recall for me the nature poems of Ted Hughes and the golden age of now ancient modern poetry of the 20th century, but perhaps even better than that by stepping on future’s now older shoulders.
  3. THE ORBITS OF GODS by Holly Heisey
    “My mate and I saw our god. His fur was shaggy…”
    A startling vision, cosmically and spiritually Blakean mixed with ‘modern’ nature poetry, involving inner and outer circles of beings orbiting god, competitive between circles and godcentre, feral, an ostensible game where two counters can’t occupy the same square. Potentially, after due digestion, this may be a significant work that a different age would have considered republishable as seminal literature? God as Dog?
  4. Poems, ‘Polymorphous / Stages of Growth’ by Olivia Edwards, ’Pray’ by Scott Hughes, ‘Seahorse’ by Tarquin Landseer. There is something with a rueful basilisk soul, if not a basilisk, behind the sinuous and feisty of the first poem, then a praying mantis in the second and sea horse in the third , a ‘spur’ in the second reaching across, through all the enjambment, to a ‘spur’ in the third. And the last gives me an expression for all the ancient-modern leaning poems so far in this book: ‘tableau vivant’.
  5. CROW AND RAT by James Dorr
    “Crow in his prime had been larger than life. And so, in her way, had she become also, at least among the lowest of the low.”
    Looming low, indeed, as it turned out, or tantamount, beyond mufti, this is a moving portrait of Crow, the man, Rat, the woman, each with their body and outerwear interwoven, then, later, on the passing of one of them, both their bodies interwoven, wear and tear, their eventual affection, even love, for each other in New City’s dire quandaries, high and low, low and high, and low again, except finally, at their lowest, earning a deserved monument to mark both their passing.
    My previous review of this author:
  6. Poems, ‘Phasianus Colchis’ by Kerry Darbishire and ‘And Then I Was a Sheep’ by Jonathan Edwards, from pheasant to sheep, with a human being being splinted or grafted between, flensed and filled, by turn, with crafted pareidolia or apophenia, with apposite words of traditional ‘modern’ verse, here in lower-case enjambment, or prose poeticised.
    My review here necessarily humanagerised, itself, genuinely felt. Wordily unhomogenised.
  7. WADE by Tonya Walter
    “Vowels rustled together in a breathy rasp.”
    An immersive portrait of a woman called Bee inheriting a property with a shack from her estranged father, a property across the country in fiery California, travelling to live there, from where she lives in Delaware, rather than selling the shack. Resonances and accretions of snakes – and water, and wading, wading in her own body, interaction with her wilder mother, now or in her memory, I am not sure which, and panic and the snakeshack itself, and verse sayings about wading in God and children. Trouble in the water. A betroubled piece by Walter.
  8. Poems, ‘Sanctuary’ by Lauren Mason – anthropomorphemes of equus. A new one in tactile and olfactory snick and bray. Learning a new communal song.
    ‘Sturnidae’ by Setareh Ebrahimi, – anthropomorphemes of avian murmuration, “punctuation” and disparate gaps between words as part of their patterns. A tracing or palimpsest of human shape, a human indeed. A star is a large starling?
  9. 89B1BF6D-F199-47FB-9D86-920B66B9F959
    RUT by Ian Steadman
    A man, who works as a cleaner and hauler in a pub to make ends meet, is bullied by those around him. The woods outside where he has lived all his life, and his father before him, and HIS father before him, evoke images of prehensile human figures with antlers… and fear itself reeks as he submits to such powers that paradoxically rescue him as well as diminish his own lifeforce…
    My previous review of this author:
  10. ‘When a magician’ by Kate Wise, “soil-grey against greyed soil, and then soil only again.” A poem, for me, about an inverse prehensile Alice: I can feel the rabbit in my hands, Abracadabra.
    ‘Palaces-Les-Flots’, by Paul Stephenson, an engaging, amusing poem of flamboyant flamingoes in Cartland, if not Wonderland.
    by Frank Roger
    For me, a confusing set of notes, apparently for some Game of Thrones (not that I have ever watched that!) (reflecting our own Toynbeean Challenge and Response philosophy of history?) involving Amoeba and Parameciae in a Pond, with resultant Kings and Emperors and a world beyond known as the Dry Land and an apparent antipathy towards things that have Shapes … shaped like these Chronicles…?
    Could grow on me.
  12. ‘Rough Music’ by Jayne Stanton, a poem that has what I expected this book’s lycanthropy to lick, that Red Riding Hood and a bellyful of such stories
    that the head contains…
    And the next poem, ‘The Butterfly Factory’ by William Stephenson, has “loupe” along with meticulous tweezers of verse. I loved voicing this chitinous text. Its last line is exactly what happened to me. My sort of poem.
  13. HIBERNATION by Sandra Unerman
    “, a mixture of hot bodies and fur with the fish guts and fermented fruit on the bears’ breath, strong enough to clear a drain.”
    A powerful, constructively naive, tract of Alison as she faces the battles of teaching in our modern age — and then finding a bearskin and accompanying drum in a junk shop, she is taken almost sensually by tongue and hot breath into the world of bears and their nature. Beating the beat herself, however inchoately. I was likewise taken by the eventual dilemma between her duty as a human being or escape from that duty. I shall not easily forget this story.
  14. Poems – ‘The Great Eel of Jazz’ by Amanda Oosthuizen, perfect description of how you would imagine the eponymous creature would affect a human being, complete with the enticement of many seeming neologisms.V0020859 A fox stalking ducks in the heath. Engraving by T. Landseer
    ‘University Library’ by Lindsay Reid. Wonderful stuff. Books as birds.
    ‘Vulpine’ by Tarquin Landseer: A fox as vulnerable human, voyeur of a fox at distance…
    Edwin Landseer’s different stalking fox…seen in some artwork I have found.
    ‘Sloth’ by Elaine Ruth White – for me, the perfect opening to any poem:
    “I am hung, slung
    like a cedilla,”
    And, a perfect ending, too.
  15. FLOCK by David Hartley
    “But where exactly is home for a human.”
    The intriguing epitome of how I understand the word ‘Humanagerie’ but here cast more as an ironic Humavian tontine, hived off from human trivial duties and then, in turn, addressed as You by the story’s motive force, swept up in a swarm murmuration, mingled and chosen by or from among arrays of different bird breeds for performing as that human performer upon a River’s wing-napped soar as twinned by nested melding.
  16. Poems – ‘Fishy Business’ by Diana Cant – fishy sexual business far too racy for human interaction? A sinuous manoeuvre of words.
    ‘Wojtek’ by Mary Livingstone – sinuous enjambment to match the previous poem, but nifty with idiosyncratic human-bear things that reminds me of the melded tenor of some of my favourite musical theatre or opera such as Wozzeck by Alban Berg and A Soldier.’s Tale by Stravinsky.
  17. SUSHEELA by Bindia Persaud
    “Or perhaps the tiger had always been there.”
    For me, a perfectly honed story in itself, and perfect for the context of this book. In a society with a headman and strict parameters regarding duties between genders, and watering holes, one hole with curse attached, I admired the eponymous feisty lady and her husband, a were-story inasmuch as things in it once were. Full of duty and love, and stoicism at losing such love or life … and the perceived eventual panning out of rights and wrongs, beyond any curse or life’s end. A feral-tale ending.
  18. Poems – ‘Fluke’ by Michael G. Casey,
    “One grain of sand between shell
    and mantle is it all it takes…”
    Metabolism of human and Gaia? The pure chance of every gestalt?
    ‘Buck and Doe’ by Jane Burn, worthy of Gerald Manley Hopkins, and if that does not entice you, nothing will.
    ‘A Structure of Perfect Angles’ by Jane Lovell, second Jane in a row, here a winged humanoid creature and its Queen as a chitinous symbiotic gestalt or dream? Very vivid.
  19. TWO LOST SOULS by Tracey Emerson
    “I told her she was gouden, dourado, zlatna.”
    A poignant tale of a man who goes to a hotel called the Give Inn, to do, with that name, guess what? He strikes up a relationship with a goldfish, the outcome of which would be a spoiler of its vanishing tale.
    Actually a very engaging work, which in hindsight may be unforgettable, I sense. Perfect for this book, too.
  20. Poems – ‘Company to Keep?’ by Jenny Grassl
    “Pose immense tigers to threaten my foes
    in the afterlife.”
    A telling blend of Shusheela’s echo as words pinned like nature’s specimens in museum of brick.
    ‘Last night a deer’ by Kerry Darbishire “jumped through my window.”: and became me, in my tussle to be me while trying to redeer or redeem myself.
    ‘Miss Muffet Owns Her Inner Spider’ by Hannah Linden. A poem about a nursery rhyme, but one without rhymes. Redeering becomes respidering.
    “— letting the pattern
    make itself from you,…” the Gestalt pattern of three tantalising poems.
  21. DEWCLAW by Ian Kappos
    “Upstairs lives a couple whose names he always mixes up; both are named after kinds of birds.”
    They may well be birds? And they remind me of ‘The Pelican’s New Clothes’ by Leena Krohn, a classic Humanagerie-like novella (reviewed here.) Recommended reading for lovers of this book. This striking story itself is a patchwork deadpan portrait of a boy who lives downstairs from that couple, with inferred urban deprivation and familial dysfunction, and with a sexually flighty mother, also inferred trans-tendencies in the boy as well as in pets or pests about the house, and high-pitched cackles voices in household things. Trans-chameleon patterns, too, in human behaviour as well as cockroach patterns. Who wears the peahen’s dress? What hides the peacock’s dewclaw? His mother with her boyfriend’s in her mouth? My questions, not necessarily the story’s.
  22. And now having read the following poem – an evocative poem called ‘Female Skate’ by Sarah Westcott – one with a footnote of genital pareidolia – my questions at the end of the Kappos earlier this afternoon, take on a new meaning! Gender ever with a dewclaw?
    ‘Noctuary’ by Tarquin Landseer, on the other hand,
    “all twittery
    in furtive flight
    inklings dip
    to skiff the dewpond”
    Bats, I Infer, as chameleon or pareidoliac words flitting down the page.
    “It suggests that if we try hard enough we might be different.”
    Convert or covet for the sake of one’s mother? The Child is not Father of the Man, but one half of one’s Parents, in a new version of Wordsworth? Or Wormsworth? This a mighty coda to the Humanagerie symphony. A girl who is abandoned by her anonymous mother at a private hospital with sufficient medical funds. The girl tries to summon back her yearned-for mother, in the narrative eyes of her doctor who gives this patchwork formal report, as Kappos’ report on his trans-patient was more deadpan. She tries to summon her mother to a choice of birthday parties. By a Kafkaesque metamorphosis as an unlikely wish for a small girl as a were-worm, with five hearts in separate parts of her body, and no spine. Or a wormy priapus emerging from Westcott’s skate or from Kappos’ dewclaw? Or a chopped Brexit into separate living forces, as a chopped worm can often become, separate lives from the singular preferable Gestalt or Gaia force? Perhaps, it is all these things. It is, meanwhile, essential Gould, a stand-alone masterpiece, in my book.
    My previous reviews of this author: and here when I first read the author’s classic story ‘Nights At the Regal’:
  24. And this book has definitely grown on me, without division.
    Full of transformative works. A budding centaura of literature.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Early Bird Catches the Worm but the Wise Worm Stays in Bed — Rhys Hughes

53 thoughts on “The Early Bird Catches the Worm but the Wise Worm Stays in Bed — Rhys Hughes

    A hilarious twist in the resolution of a would-be love triangle among humans, where also a picnic hamper in a car and a boarded-up house in the back of beyond and a potential storm flood pretend to peer closer at each other but already knowing to expect themselves to be there. It’s just a question of an appearance of omniscience.
    Not about a trophy wife as such, but part of this story’s big game at least was tempting the reader to construe what the ending of this couple’s hunting survivalism story in a wayside cottage was likely to be before he or she had read the ending!
  3. Nathaniel
    “, under diminishing arches lower than hands and knees.”
    A story not about genius or masterpieces but about everything as prototypes. Including the inventor and the woman he invented who tells this story about him. Via an invented leasehold narrator? Or even an invented freehold author? But who invented him? Is this a new proof of God beyond teleology or ontology?
  4. Reflections of a Brass Head
    “‘Our dreams, schemes and constructs cannot be surpassed,’ they argued. ‘Their sheer scale precludes any improvement.’ They often cited this very tower as an example. The limits of grandeur had been reached here, they insisted: a tower carved out of a single tusk of a giant catoblepas.”
    A story full of such wonderful passages, as we dupe even ourselves about the contrast between the dowdy and the glorious. Even my own wyvern is scrawny. My brass head — that makes all of me — unpolished. (One should never polish brass?) But this story remains resplendent with such ingrowing and outgrowing paradoxes. A would-be Rhysian classic. If only eyes that can read are able to cross over to it. Any crimson beards, notwithstanding.
    On internet: Polished brass looks lovely, but over time, brass often begins to lose its shine and ends up looking tarnished and dull. Thankfully, you can usually return brass to its shiny state…
  5. My earliest surviving story, ‘Raindancing’, from 1989.
    My third and fourth earliest, ‘Big Game’ (which was published in Dementia 13 in an issue following one in which I read the first story of yours I ever encountered, ‘Between White Lines’), and ‘The 4-D Mind’, both written in 1990 but not published for a couple of years after that.
    My 11th earliest, ‘Nathaniel’, from 1991.
    My 17th earliest, ‘Reflections from a Brass Head’, from 1992 (also published in an issue of Dementia 13… :-)
    “They watched the house from the shelter of the park opposite, disguised as perverts to avoid drawing attention to themselves.”
    I am surprised I have not read a story before by Rhys Hughes that so ably sets out his known views on the artistry of depression (eg the Horror genre) and the blight of needing to be unhappy to create such art. A man whose cabbage smells and recluse nature had led to lucrative and, to his friends’ eyes, great art but then these spying friends were dismayed to see his unhappiness dissipated by his getting a girl friend. And these friends seek to rectify the situation for posterity’s sake, with a punchline to die for.
    (The title of this whole book also provocative in this light?)
    “My apologies. I have lately been wallowing in the filth of Tartarus,…”
    Roedelius composed A Walk in the Paradise Gardens, did he not? I just managed, with that question, the ultimate triple bluff fiction transplant in all reviewing history. A foolhardy business, I admit, because if I had missed by just one note, I would now bear the soul of Rhys Hughes!! The Devil mostly takes the hind legs first.
  8. Death of an English Teacher
    “The wholeness of her body, it seemed, was actually important to her.”
    Mrs Robinson’s once young graduate of English lit, is faced with saving her, in the face of superstitious satansims from the surrounding common folk, and tempted by severe Reeves, not to save her from an unlucky fall down a cliff because she spurned Robbie-Grillet in favour of Jane Austen. Lit English, indeed. Hello, Mrs Robinson, good bye. As all sublime thunders ensue and an authorial concertina audit trail from Mrs McGeeney towards Pepys as a peeping tom is couched in the most remarkable prose from this author’s pen. I understand not a word if it, but it is grotesquely and brilliantly lit.
    And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
    Jesus loves you more than you will know
    Wo wo wo
    God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
    Heaven holds a place for those who pray
    Hey hey hey, hey hey hey
    We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files
    We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
    Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes
    Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home
    And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson,
    Jesus loves you more than you will know
    Wo wo wo
    God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
    Heaven holds a place for those who pray
    Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey
    Hide it in the hiding place where no one ever goes
    Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes
    It’s a little secret just the Robinson’s affair
    Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids
    Koo-koo-ka-choo, Mrs. Robinson,
    Jesus loves you more than you will know
    Wo wo wo
    God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
    Heaven holds a place for those who pray
    Hey, hey, hey hey, hey, hey
    Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
    Going to the candidates’ debate
    Laugh about it, shout about it
    When you’ve got to choose
    Every way you look at this you lose
    Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
    Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you
    Wu wu wu
    What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson
    Jolting Joe has left and gone away
    Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey
    — Simon and Garfunkel
  9. The Myth of Sisyphus
    A momentous complaint from the eponymous roller of a boulder up a bigger boulder. A complaint that accounts of his doings are wrong, and about this myth that he failed at this myth, by actually getting it to the top… an ignition for our life itself. Well, there is no love lost. Homer is probably dead now, anyway.
    “Sitting in the park, on the way home, two young lovers carved a heart and initials on my trunk.”
    An engaging word-symphony in four numbered movements about a man turning into a tree from a seed in his neck. I don’t think he ever considers the possibility that, rather than a seed that invaded him from outside, it came from within him organically like a tumour. Nor does the author consider it, I guess. That possibility of non-omniscience, for me, makes it even more effective in its adumbranching of our human condition, that ebb and fallow of nymphs and naiads with bank employees and smartphone users.
    “It would have been highly impractical for him to lock away his entire population in real dungeons. No, the King’s dungeons were not physical structures, but corresponding states of mind. Nevertheless, they were every bit as cramped and bleak.”
    A prophecy of Trump. An example of a tale that they told forward now, rather than back then. But more a fable than a tale. Read it and see how this is a remarkable item of such literature bearing in mind what has happened since. And a moral means to a new end. And I also loved the one-legged God called Hopp! He lost it, I guess, in a prayer that backfired.
  12. Consolations of the Wild One
    “The barbarians are closing in on all sides. In recent years, they have taken to raiding our homes, carrying off our young, polluting our environment with their foul diseases. The wild one, well versed in their ways, will be a valuable asset to us. We will be able to make plans. We will be able to retaliate.”
    Except for mites that jump from fur to skin and then back again , as if forever. A new fable of the Noble Savage that we can co-opt to defend ourselves against even wilder ones among us. But can any of us humans ever be noble?
  13. The Roof of the World
    “(Shadows and tall trees. Nymphs and sprites cavorting with each other through the heavy sunflakes that fell from enormous sunflowers, heady scented and full.)”
    Heady stuff, one of Rhys’s best. About the gods uploft with roofing and plumbing problems who once hired a typical handyman from our world, you know the sort who caused a lot of hair tearing out by the gods, and a couple of nymphs going home with him. They need to hire him again, but without the hassle. And there is some beautiful stuff placed between parenthesised monologues of the handyman himself and between the connivance scenes of the gods. I did not understand the final punch line. Until I realised that a final closing parenthesis is like a rainbow. Writers, both of us, still falling?
    “(Had I fallen, I would never have known the joy of impact. I would have starved to death before I reached the ground. Such was my present altitude that songs sung in my grandfather’s day had only just reached it. Infinitely dissipated, they warbled past like the sighs of a ghost. It has been said that the first man to climb this ladder fell off near the top and is still falling.)”
  14. Multicoloured Leaves in Bright Spirals
    An argument between two neighbours about which of them should next run the nursery of children, citing different activities and trips with which they would each regale the children. Another neighbour – who is currently painting the colours and scenes of today’s late autumn in our world – acts as a seasoned peacemaker. If I now regaled you with the story’s beautifully conjured ending, it would spoil it for you.
    “And he saw himself in the future looking back in his memory at this scene; and he knew this was the extra step of distance necessary… […] …so the old man he would become would dream about the youth who was gliding into this adventure, first as voyager, then as voyeur”
    As would the author himself look back at his early work today? This erotic ‘world muse’ or tauntress and its wordplay of temptations with outside observation by statues (with today’s smartphones?) Absolutely incredible. A Rhysian masterpiece, overlooked, since original publication, till now?
  16. Thanks, Des!
    ‘The Manticore’ was written in 1993 but not published until 1999 (in The Dream Zone #4 apparently). It was accepted for publication in an anthology too, but it never appeared there. I suspect it’s one of my (many) stories that have only ever been read by a small handful of people. But that’s true of all the stories in this book, I think.
  17. Zumbooruk
    “Once I was young, quick in mind and body. The strength of the body has waned, to be sure, but the mind is as sharp as ever.”
    And mine is still sharp enough to perceive this otherwise fantastical Swiftian tale told by one of the characters to another with some very nice touches of creative absurdity as a very early Brexit prophecy. Just read it and see. It all fits in. The portal to a land endingUK, a Shangri La for the new or native to come or go and others to stay, and why to board up the portal and the obsession concerned with it, or not, and why or how to leave or remain. The whirlpool as an emblem of the politics involved. Also read about the book that told us all the myths and physical idiosyncrasies about those who are said to live there. And much more.
    “It was irresponsible of you to take such a risk with the lives of others. Your ambition might have destroyed them as well as yourself.”
  18. The Achilles Tendency
    “He was my tortoise. I think you’d better try to fish him out.”
    I have always been fascinated by the most famous of Zeno’s paradoxes and this tale of academic scientific rivalry is far from academic. Even the rivalry itself and its repercussions are subject to such a paradox, even this review, the only real-time review that can see the Gestalt as a tantalising target knowing forever that it cannot reach it. A bit like the optimum backstop. Wry as well as rueful.
    Early or late, the worm will never catch the bird. But especially vice versa.
    (Today I synchronously had other worms caught by another paradox, one called insanity: TAKE THE WAY HOME:
  19. The Duvet Thief
    Ostensibly, a satire on psychiatrists who have pretentious methods and are obsessed with Freudian sex and diagnosing other sexual hang-ups in their patients, to the extent of earbrushing out all else that the patient reveals about marital problems. Here, a wife who steals the king-size double duvet in the night, leaving the husband frigid. Some nice touches.
  20. Sucking the World’s Thumb
    “; no one can say for sure whether it is connected to anything, or what might happen if it was.”
    Probably the most original Kafkaesque story I have ever read, crammed with ideas to take away with you and treasure.
    “My voice has a leatherwood honey timbre, a caramel tone that can smooth the ear of any who listen.”
    ‘“No.” He chewed at his bottom lip. “There is no comparison. Listen to me. When you cross a road in front of a moving vehicle, you have a choice. You have control. Your death is your own. But up there you are nothing. You have to die with people you do not know, with people you do not like. Besides, there is a big difference between the five-second collision and the fifteen-minute plummet.’”
    “I knew for certain now that it would never be possible to convince him, that my exercise in style was over; that I had failed.”
    This is a significant work about the fear of flying. And the lot of one man among many. How have I not read before something so central to my own angst of life? How has a writer like this transcended his own chutzpah of optimism?
    Perhaps that’s why it has been broadly hidden till now?
    We are all passengers on this planet.
  22. LOOP
    “What has gone wrong with the world?”
    A truly amazing wordplay extravaganza about the drumming up of freaks for a freak show business. Possibly the most amazing wordplay of this writer’s career. Sad, too, in its own way.
    “And there I am, at the top of the hill, and I make a perfect loop with my body and I roll down, away, faster and faster, gathering momentum until I am no more than a blur.”
    “The coriander snapped and hissed in the pan like the pods of his desire; the angry oil swirled in agitated circles like the ichor of his lust.”
    From one astonishing story to another, this a paean of love and lust to a woman as a vessel of various spices, with sexuality as well as romance, explicitly tumescent in one passage, if not with capsi-cum!
    A paradox of both fulfilment and destruction. A World Muse of curried flavours and favours.
    Adds to another hindsight frisson of sadness I noted in my previous entry.
    Essential reading for all lovers of a whole genre of literature, a genre if you read the whole of his canon of fiction (or most of it, as I have), the bounded but boundless genre that can only be defined by his by-line and name.
  24. There’s a Woman with a Cactus Instead of a Head
    “But then I remember why I must catch this bus: it is because I must travel to work every morning. And why do I work? It is because I need money for the bus-fare.”
    This has suddenly erupted into my reading-mind. A classic beyond classics, perhaps. A stoical view of life in our series of generations within my living purview, left-wing and factorial, not part of, while not being part of, one’s own observations. Bus journeys and tedious jobs. ‘Making chain’ is a genius trope for what I mean, but what do I mean? Rhys Hughes as an apotheosis of Lee Rourke and vice versa. With elements of Charles Wilkinson. But Rhysianism is essentially unique at its nub and flare.
    Arguably, now, my favourite Rhys Hughes story!
  25. Miserable with Groceries, Cuddly With Stubble
    “I am forced to frequent their realm, the labyrinth of terraced streets that define their mood and manner, the greasy alleyways. There is no golden cord to lead me outside. From the railway bridge it is just possible to glimpse the lands beyond the factories, all out of reach and pure. In the library it is possible to read about them, tracts of open country, rural lanes, places where apples come not in tins, where bread is the colour of melting snow.”
    Amazing. I have just quoted all that because it is in incredible resonance with — but indirectly linked, by a story quite different — a story called Garbage Men I read half an hour ago and reviewed here about an ex-student and writer … The repercussions of comparison are staggering.
    This Rhysian story in isolation — and there is no possibility that either author will have had the opportunity to read each other’s story, and they are so utterly different as stories, too — has a fantastic insight into the observation of students, invoking references to Candide and God in the Basement. And much more. Another classic!
  26. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS Edit

  27. It seems appropriate that, exactly a year ago, I completed the above review of this author’s own ‘love stories’, a book with a cover of a man with a scythe…and that today I have just read this, the next story….
    “The couple jumped onto the table, amid the clatter of plates, and devoured each other, finally satisfying themselves in the most unimaginative position of all.”
    A powerfully experimental work about sexual positions, with many references to Africa. Full of images and events to absorb and then allow percolation in the reader (mine still percolating!), amid some very strange use of numbered brackets or parentheses of prose. Seems at first to relativise or prophesy or transgress or enhance the changing stances of the world, the world in which we live, the stances regarding greater sensitivity to the interface of gender and sex, and the care (or lack of it) with which they address each other.
  28. The Glossolalia of Hideo Frigg
    “I wish you all success in your forthcoming war with Jersey and trust that recalcitrant isle shall become the latest seashell in your crown, the freshest haddock in your nets, the sweetest bougainvilia on your lattice.”
    A richly Rhysian wordplay (possibly the richest possible, to the nth degree of constructive nonsense) – a bracket is like a scythe blade – a wordplay on battles for the Channel Islands and other politics, including with the French about toupées and perruques, shenanigans that seem to strongly pre-echo the destructive nonsense of the Brexit Bracket. (“My fears are grounded in the metaphysical — that my words will eventually turn full circle and re-assume the cloak of meaning.”) Again, read it and see. Also, I loved the word ‘Whimocracy’!
    “Any message received from a star more distant than 100 light years would indicate a superior technology. Contact was the last thing they wanted.”
    Hilarious or absurd or meaningful or chance codes of human behaviour splattergunned across the universe to hopefully apologise — as a single signalled configuration from among those codes — for an earlier insult that we infer we, as humans, once issued to a cosmic contact out there … issued from an earlier human civilisation now long dead? I now intend to seek the whole canon of Rhys Hughes fiction text (the most fictionatronically fertile place to find it) for a hidden message.
    Maybe I have already found it in the title of this book?
    “The whole world is about three drinks behind.” — Humphrey Bogart
    • The Early Bird Catches the Worm but the Wise Worm Stays in Bed in fact seems to encapsulate the plot of The Apology, as well as other of this book’s stories I have so far read. Early stories and late, I assume. But where did the late ones start?
    “— here in the jungles of Zugzwang — I am able to declare the independence of my very own Banana Republic!”
    A flash feast fiction. Not a one-trick pony, more a one-joke chess move. Forced to laugh.
  31. The Pelican of Venice
    “Silence is unknown in Venice — it is always right to compete with the sea, shouting down the slap of the waves on the steps and mooring-poles.”
    A wonderful evocation of Venice in body and soul. With a narrator giving the inverse Judas kiss on behalf of the Papacy to someone that arrives regularly with a particular rhythm of the year. A kiss that sends that entity “dry drowning” into the Venetian square … I sensed a prophecy, here, of Trump, I sensed something even more evil, I sensed something strangely beatific, too, I sensed all manner of things. It was a catharsis, but of what? The Pelican’s new clothes à la Leena Krohn?
    “I saw he intended to sound the final trump from the middle of the Piazzetta, hemmed in by the splendour and pomp.”
  32. Those are all the ‘early’ stories in the book finished with now, Des! Most of them were written in the early or mid 1990s. ‘The Pelican of Venice’ was written in 1997. There now follows a fourteen year gap before the first of the ‘late’ stories… :-)
  33. Thanks, Rhys!
    “Reality is simplicity itself once you understand that we aren’t supposed to know what it’s about.”
    Conundra about a Mr Wolfe on a train journey with his son, where ‘voyage’ was quickly losing its ‘bon’. Dr Fraser boards the train and we slowly realise the nature of Mr Wolfe, and an embedded moon making his state permanent, also making me think I am a prophetic genius about this story by mentioning Krohn’s Mr Pelican novella in my previous entry above! Plain and simple.
  34. Spoiling the View
    “There are no roads to my house.”
    That is what I have often said. An obvious lie of the land.
    Meantime, this is the story of Judith’s noble act of dealing with the logistics of her own house, the tree beside it and the consequent spoilt view. I suppose any view depends on how you approach it. And whether you are early or late in the day. A bit like reading this book.
    “To misunderstand I have to get the understanding wrong, but I don’t begin to even understand what you mean,” I said.
    But I did eventually. This brilliantly and poignantly absurdist mission to stop the rain in Swansea (unlike Havana, not purpose-built for being a rainy place) is eventually an inspiring call to duty. Tiny bit by bit, we can make things slightly better. A bit better.
    I mentioned Voltaire in a similar context here in The Riddled Man yesterday.
  36. Jekking the Oofers
    This is a story of encounter built upon an ultra-extrapolation of language called SFINGLISH, as if from that in Finnegans Wake, Clockwork Orange, Riddley Walker… interspersed with our own present English embracing it. Full of paradoxes about language development and the relativity of future / present time. The evaluative relativity of this story is an even more complex undertaking….
    Potentially tomorrow’s classic. The early worm’s late catch?
  37. When the Tide Comes in, Belinda Puts Out
    “Female to males; male to females.”
    “You are whatever a drowning person desires you to be?”
    “Yes, apart from merciful…”
    A major work, a fable or myth or Ovid as Void in metamorphoses, as the sea kidnaps Belinda for its detritus-accretive-civilising city of Glugville, but libido for its own sake wins out – and becomes rain over Swansea?
    Transcendent stuff. Pity the few people who will not eventually read it.
    “There are many strollers on the shores of the world,…”
  38. What Did You Do for Doomsday?
    A Socratic philosophical debate that out-debates all such debates to such an extent that my mind has not emerged unscathed from reading it. The number of us who have read it will no doubt increase exponentially as long as we each in turn manage to forget having read it beyond the time it takes to describe it in real-time no further than this full-stop.
  39. The Tatty Bye
    “Soaked and chilled and imprisoned underground, his natural good cheer vanished completely.”
    A work of extreme free-wheeling idea- and word-association of halves and wholes concerning a character called RUSTUS appropriately hoarse… Readers and other fiction works threatened or threatening to encompass this story character and each other. I happen already to be real-time reviewing THE RUST MAIDENS here…hmmm.
  40. Hepcats are from Neptune, Bum Notes are from Uranus
    “Unlike most of the other instruments, a washboard doesn’t need to be tuned.”
    A whimsical fantasy told as if it is solid logic, a Rhysian trait in keeping with the author’s own static growth as a prodigious child-like mind. Here someone is taken to musically entertain the Sun going out to a restaurant near Pluto. Shell phones and smalls. Sweat suds and skiffles.
  41. Barbarian Gran
    “She was an expert at knitting but only did it before battles.”
    A most moving portrait of the greatest, most stoical Barbarian Gran ever. Including a description of knitting that has never been knitted before in literature, I guess. And about her knitting coincidentally the exact number of balaclavas for those men felled in the latest snowy battle. With what upon whose heads we witness her sowing a “Keep them warm and dying”…., the carrion crows notwithstanding.
    “…in her senescent prime.”
    (Knitted worms, late and early, each knitted stitch eyeless within, and bone icicles, too?)
    Someone who is embroiled in the frustrating dilemma or paradox of using the ‘phonetic alphabet’ words to identify other words.
    Or Zeno’s Osmosis of the Singular Sample as a way to taste something uniquely sampled that you want others to taste after you have tasted it, including yourself.
  43. Shelf and Safety
    “Use your head to keep your head, he told himself!”
    A sort of duel in a war in an obscure chapter of history, where, while day-dreaming, the otherwise chivalrous loser has his neck so neatly sliced through, his head remains precariously in place… (if you see such wars as a series of individual duels).
    Only one author from any corner of literature could have thought of this arguably wildest ever plot scenario and a possible solution with bookends on a bookshelf and perhaps extraneous queries in my mind about upper case decapitation…
    Coincidentally, yesterday, I read a story, from a currently more famous corner of literary history, about a somewhat less absurd but equally mind-tickling duel, one as written by Vladimir Nabokov:
  44. The Pink Canoe
    “The river was the fluid extension of her ongoing orgasm.”
    And a man in the pink canoe sailing it, calling across to another in a parallel tributary mainstream, going whence he had just come. ‘Come’ being the operative word, yet neither coming or going but straddling polar opposite emotions in two women, at either end. Hope that is not a spoiler, getting his end away. Probably something too deep for the likes of me.
    “They had folded themselves into origami cheetahs.”
    The conceit here is that Grandma’s homily about the pounds looking after themselves, when pounds were notes not just coins like pennies, and it leads to the notes becoming autonomously inimical to their owner. The essence of counterintuitive thinking.
  46. The Sleep Patterns of Björn Wakeman
    “I think it would have been easier to boil water for a cup of tea, but I was asked to boil a kettle, so that’s what I’m doing…”
    A major unmissable Rhysian tour de force, of substantial length. A cornucopia of old and new jokes, paradoxes, mind-benders and fictionatronics, from a prodigious child-like mind. Rhys as an original beyond any possible originality of any writer-artist as well as Rhys as a writer-artist utterly separate from the work created by that same writer-artist.
    “I love paradoxes so much that I’d like to kiss and marry them.”
    I think this book proves that Rhys has not developed as a writer-artist over the years but has always been the writer-artist he always was from the beginning. An often underrated writer-artist. Ranging from pure genius to downright silly to both of these qualities at once. Like the words ‘cleave’, ‘ravel’ and ‘peel’ meaning the same as as their opposite versions of themselves as un-words.
  47. Thanks Des! ‘The Sleep Patterns of Bjorn Wakeman’ came about because I decided to start collecting the jokes and puns I put on Facebook. Instead of just putting them as status updates I would also save most of them in a document. Over time they were equivalent to a story in terms of wordage so I decided to turn them into that story (which isn’t exactly a story) :-)