Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Flash in the Pantheon

Flash in the Pantheon – Rhys Hughes

Gloomy Seahorse Press (2014)
I have just purchased this book direct from the printer and intend to carry out one of my real-time reviews of it. As there are 123 tales, I expect I shall only comment on certain of them as I go through.
It may or may not be significant that I have been concurrently real-time reviewing here ‘Finnegans Wake’ by James Joyce, with the second half of that novel still to be read!
My previous real-time reviews of Rhys Hughes works are linked from HERE.

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45 responses to “Flash in the Pantheon – Rhys Hughes

  1. “The reflexes of a tree,…”
    Well, I ought to start my commenting with the first tale as otherwise that would be tantamount to prejudice against first tales. Self-important they may be already by being placed first in a book, true, yet they would become even more self-important by their own self-righteousness about being picked on by not being picked on. Goblin Sunrise tells of the hiring of a goblin for garden work, an ugly goblin – described like the current reviewer of this gloomy seahorse book – a reviewer who nevertheless has an eye for bigger things than mere gardens, much to the chagrin of his wife.
    EDIT (23.2.14): my previous review of ‘Goblin Sunrise':
  2. “Saw him with his macaroon.”
    And now I’m worried about upsetting the book’s second tale: Sexing the Confection. Plain or self-raising. Mating or baking with cakes, and anyone who already enjoys Rhys Hughes fictionatronic conceits in their longer forms of story, novella or novel will surely love these flash fictions, as I am confident I shall love them. And they will be loved by Rhys Hughes virgins, too.
    I just wonder why they don’t call exponents of flash fiction ‘flashers’?
    And why ‘Finnegans Wake’ wasn’t called ‘Finnegans Cake’?
    How can I possibly leapfrog any of these 123 tales in my gestalt real-time review? So, I intend to comment on every fiction flash, building up to the most extended and unified crescendo of pretentiously flash reactions in the whole of literary criticism.
    These comments will take place whenever possible but no more than one flash fiction per day: a sort of daily treat like a cup of nicely infused aromatic tea in a fine bone china cup served with a petite madeleine cake.
  3. “…the largest monocle in the world…”
    With my reference about the tea and madeleine, I now think of one of Proust’s characters, Charles Swann, who is often depicted in illustrations and screen dramas with a monocle but I don’t think he is ever described as wearing one within the actual text of ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ — and James Joyce was often photographed wearing a pair of glasses with an eye-patch under the left lens. Which then reminds me of my long-term recurring ‘iritis’ in the left eye: a serious condition that can warrant an eye-patch if the condition worsens before being treated. And the next flash of the optics is The Spanish Cyclops where Hughes takes off in a marvellous way extrapolating upon a Spanish lens grinder building an oversized monocle but the tale’s title itself perhaps turns out to be a bit of a red herring: in an unclear sea seen through a lens clearly. I loved also the almost accidental-seeming ‘enjoying the spectacle’ throwaway.
    As a general aside, there seems to be the same leapfrogging phonetic rhythm in ‘Flash in the Pantheon’ as in Boris Vian’s ‘Froth on the Daydream’.
    PS: OMG, just found out for the first time, by a google search of “James Joyce” and “iritis”, that he also suffered from recurring bouts of the rare condition known as iritis!!!!
    (Later: I have just written a blog post here about this discovery that has arisen from this book review.)
  4. bambi-pngimage
    Gone With the Wind in the Willows
    “You are joking. This is vintage stuff.”
  5. The Backwards Aladdin
    “You can’t wish to be something you already are.”
    Absurdity gives birth to wise truths, often simply with a single ricochet from an infinite niddala of mutual rubbings by souls that possess things to be rubbed and with which to rub.
    To be woken to each day by these Hughes’ fictions is to wake indeed. Each a fastbreak flash to ignite my brain.
    An aging brain, though. There’s the rub.
  6. Man Who Gargled With Gargoyle Juice
    My previous review of this story:
    Reading or re-reading essentially real-time-reviewable texts in my way is very much tied up with the natural or unnatural events in one’s life while conducting these activities (like a conductor of words and stories as if they are music playing, as they do by turns, with or against life’s synchronicities) — and this story’s antibiotics featured significantly in my life overnight last night when my wife was treated urgently in A&E for a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. She is home now and recovering … unless she has a reaction to the new pills she’s been given to cure the previous pills, I guess! It has been very stressful for me, too, and re-reading this story just now has helped bolster my spirits. Squeezed goblins, sieved pixies, hung-and-tickled gnomes or melted gargoyles, who knows our best medicine in the mending….?
  7. “Nature was in balance.”
    Here, in the ironic The Iron Age, we have a Rhys Hughes masterpiece, in my estimation. The noble savages basking in the perfect climate of hope as well as safe sun-bathing now forced to face – by negative dint of dark soothsayer or budding anti-natalist – the sharp corners of fashions or inevitable retrospective ages of time, but still basking in the ancient radiance even while they stand rubbing or wishing upon ironing-boards. (On a more personal and timely note, would it have been better to let nature or predestination take one of their respective courses instead of the other, judging by the current use of anti-biotics?)
  8. Well, I hadn't looked ahead at the title of the next fiction Waiting for Breakfast when I mentioned a ‘fastbreak flash to ignite my brain’ earlier. I call VERY short flash fictions (like this one) by the new generic name of flush fiction, but here it also entails the potential flushing red, or blushing, toward toasting toast as well as eventual destruction by solar warming’s global toasting in a billion years’ time. A break fast fiction, but still waiting for an appreciably large part of eternity to end. A neat conversation indeed with that actual ancient sun by, I guess, someone’s young son who will create serial generations of further sons (and daughters) awaiting the final event of eternity. This comment is nearly as long as the work it is reviewing! No plot spoilers involved, other than perhaps the eventual infinite spoiler by reality’s misbegotten creation and its in-built uncreation.
  9. into111
    “…the tang of juicy pulp rose to his nostrils.”
    Like much of Rhys Hughes, The Dark Horse is wonderfully pointless – but it unexpectedly ends with one. The best of both worlds. Scrumptious.
  10. “So then I felt some sort of balance had been achieved and I decided to believe them.”
    This morning I find myself In Moonville with one of the most wonderful opening lines in literature. Followed by exungulations exacted for worker ants, roofscapes card-towered for sights of the moon, and a fragile truce between an art for art’s sake beauty (even mysticism) and a striving for philosophical thought. I don’t mean this pretentiously but the aura of this story slightly reminded me of my own ‘The Tallest King’…that ring-fenced but ever-expanding striving for the moon.
  11. Thanks, Rhys. That story was first published in the 1980s, then in 2003 in the ‘Weirdmonger’ book and in recent weeks rewritten for Ex Occidente’s ADMTOAH. Still, I should ‘get a life’ rather than end up discussing my own work in a review of someone else’s book, I guess. Which brings me to Get A Room that is another ‘flush fiction’, a type of particularly short flash fiction that serves most efficiently to flush the brain for those with busy lives … and here to flush a hotel room, too! I loved the anthropomorphic interaction of the wind and rain in Wales, which I imagine is rather topical, as well as typical! This tale had me laughing and telling my wife about it.
  12. “…he will be aware only of intermittent flashes around him,…”
    Happy St David’s Day. To visit The Planet of Perfect Happiness — a place called Inclova (a name with three clever meanings from sound or anagram: just read the story for its revelation of those fastbreak ignitions of the brain!) — is like visiting each of this book’s flash fictions themselves, a yearning experience that flashes by, like all good things, with the inevitable nature of flash hopes, even flash religions, flash faiths, flash platonic forms… As beautiful as 4′ 33″ (at the optimal most).
  13. By entering The Cloudhouse, a fiction with a telling variation upon the theme in the previous one, we are aptly reminded that some of us will soon be entering a fast period called Lent as a sort of ‘happy’ self-flagellation. A fast fiction like this one can tell you more about yourself than any busy God can. Also, as a spin-off, a delightful conceit of a cloud being kept like a pet pussy-cat. Rhys Hughes releases for good – rather than lends us – such conceits for our own permanent use.
  14. Celia the Impaler is a staggeringly remarkable flash fiction that seems to be told from the narrative anthropomorphic capstone viewpoint of the Great Pyramid of Cheops as it is raped by a woman going down on it, with her having climbed to thus destroy it as she has already destroyed the other six wonders of the world (as some other reputations or bodies of previous luminaries, by allegorical inference, have been destroyed in recent years by truth or untruth?). Or indeed is the pyramid raping her, as it infers itself? A perception or misperception for our times. Written satisfyingly in a deeply textured, often erotic, prose as if by Lawrence Durrell in his Alexandrian Quartet, four novels about the same events in each one but from the different points of view of four narrators.
    “; her lusts are as old as any morning in a life.”
  15. “…the delight of making the crossing rather than because they really wanted to reach the far side of the water.”
    Each morning I look forward to locking another of these flash fictions into my head for their own sake or their possible, unpredictable spin-offs. A few of the wise or simply aesthetic results reveal themselves immediately, others take days, others will possibly take years, others no doubt forever. Meanwhile, at my now optimum age, the head seems to grow or simply to transform…not necessarily with its own fleshy and bony mass but the accumulation of something far more rarefied that I predict will eventually become the whole of my head. Love Keys is quite another story. A delightful one.
  16. “I’m not giving up without a fight…”
    One day Wrexham, the next Crimea. The Wrexham Chainsaw Massacre or the All-American Thumper-Monster or whatever the latest chainsaw wielder is. Each day with its daily Rhysus flash diet, any ironic fantasy tailored and cut to the poetic bone for that day, whichever day it is, now or in the future. Mettle fighting metal. A wise saw.
  17. rhysus
    Beneath a new Goblin Sunrise we have here with The Tools a fable about tunnel-vision or an unthinking work ethic or the use of modern tools – depicted via jobs in the garden, tree surgery, lawn mowing, strimming, all leading to an ironic moral that is actually quite startling and meaningful. I am not sure that my recently obtained Gloomy Seahorse Press book of ‘Rhysop’s Fables’ (207 of these fables within it!) represents such meaningful morals of self-help. Perhaps I shall find out as my own pleasure ethic (disguised as a work ethic) is causing me to consider real-time reviewing these, too, on a daily basis, but in the evening before going to bed rather than first thing in the morning with the 123 flash fictions. Watch this space.
  18. Yes, watch that space! And in a sense Perpetual Motion is a watching and waiting within a space, with that very watching and waiting becoming a corpus of work, indestructible but controllable, a machine of self (each particle bibliographised), where you and me can play and observe, turning it into petty gestalts, as I am now playing in this flash creator’s machine of work, till he decides to tell me – as he has done now – that my universe is his. But I see that even his universe belongs to someone else even more powerful. Time ticks on perpetually with or without us, as our works accrete autonomously. Not a weirdmonger wheel, but a fictionatronic monster. But I defiantly continue with the machines I know, not the machines I shall never know. Tomorrow is another day in my seemingly endless ethic of work.
    “Although they had taken a long time to sketch out, filling upwards of twenty thousand quarto volumes in elaborate notes…”
  19. This is ultra-flush fiction where Metafiction met a fiction and married it! Actually it also has the best endplay on words yet – ever!
  20. The Landscape Player
    “…a counterpoint of cautious hope and nostalgia.”
    Truly affected by this beautiful, thoughtful fiction, word–with-word renewing as prose as well as the plot’s reality-creative Scriabinesque music-making, even geomantics – with, eventually, a coded coda conveying for me both this book’s earlier ‘Perpetual Motion’ but also a feel of my own Perpetual Autumn or sweet Endless Fall.
  21. Six-Word Story Time
    Story, sequel, and life’s factual coda.
  22. The End of the Road
    “If only I played the piccolo instead of the double bass!”
    A very satisfying fiction flash of true love: a hit-and-run bout of unrequited passion … and the ending has a slowly-dawning psychological depth that even exceeds the overall depth of many a full-length novel that might also have built up to this point. I do not say that lightly.
  23. Penal Colony
    A very intriguing third-‘person’ singular monologue that extrapolates on the dissemination of a contradictory self as a series of captive off-loads as well as proud ownership, like these fictions themselves that the self retains until they, too, are castaways for others like us to cherish or spurn. I have banned the use of the word ‘anthropomorphic’ as a contextual tautology in my current daily review elsewhere of Rhysop’s Fables, but here I am free to use it. This fiction gradually and artfully accrues its own fabulist, almost Kafkaesque, anthropomorphism.
  24. Floodtide
    “Another animal consigned to fable!”
    Or to Faber & Faber?
    A hilarious Whovian take on Noah’s flood, a retrocausal quest with a twist, and it has TS Eliot instead of Kafka this time.
  25. An Ideal Vocation
    “This machine has no need of maintenance.”
    I think I read somewhere that this was the author’s very first published story. And indeed it’s set in perpetual motion the ideal vocation for its creator, one that is still morphing and aspiring, a sort of literary mountain-climbing, ironic, too, with a sort of moral at the end disguised as a punch-line, one that seems to turn this into an unhelpful and irresponsible fable. (As for me, I yearn for the ideal vacation, soon to arrive, I guess.)
    • Yes, it was my very first published story! I wrote it three times. Once in 1987, again a few years later, and then for the final time in December 1991. I submitted it at the end of January 1992 and it was published in the summer of that year… Everything else that followed only followed because of this story. It was totally and utterly inspired by some of the shorts of Kafka such as ‘Cares of a Family Man’…
  26. img1631-2-2-1rr.jpg
    The Wooden Salesman
    “The kettle is the soldier’s friend, it drives away the chill.”
    A deadpan narrator, a soldier like Soldier Švejk, heats his pan with a cold caller! A brilliant obliquity.
  27. The Wilds Beyond Carmarthen
    We Are What We Are, as the co-resonant Mexican cinema film has it. A neat play on the author’s announced belief in the logical disjunct of the rationale behind the so-called horror genre of fiction. It takes place beyond a Carmarthenshire where my own Dad was born and left for good to have his family elsewhere. I always wondered why.
    This book is beginning to have its own sense of perpetual motion of conceits, a prose-poetic machine that needs no maintenance, shimmering between l’art pour l’art and ironic purpose.
  28. Sir Cheapskate
    I love it when Rhysisms blend the archetypes of an ostensibly nostalgic past with the crassness of modernity in some ironic push for a special perspective that only literature can provide. Here we have the knightly version of the hiring help trope from our Goblin Sunrise that was this book’s keynote sunrise many days ago. This new one ending with a truly cheapskate play on words between fruit and chivalry which no spoiler could spoil: damsels and damsons! But that’s the only unspoiler I am going to divulge in this whole review.
  29. In Sunsetville
    “No man in history had ever loved a woman as much as Hissy loved Poona;…”
    A sister fiction to ‘In Moonville’ and equally as good as that masterpiece (a pointless comparison, but true nevertheless). Frabjous Troose makes a welcome return; he is still in a fragile truce with non-existence – and surviving even the author’s stated non-belief in what is said to happen at the end. Not that I like Frabjous Troose himself.
    Undeniably, this is a truly lovely fiction with one of the most clever granting-a-wish conceits that one could ever conceive of being conceived. A genius loci that happily reminded me of Priest’s Dream Archipelago, too. Meantime, Hissy became history.
  30. Like the rogue wanderlust planets that are Desanus and Rhystune, all of us can aspire to The Free Spirit, too. Even a flash within infinity is substantial by durable length and airy breadth…
  31. image
    The new broomstick: Blocking the Flue is a flush fiction in more ways than one with two puns to end all puns! Puns that can lift you as well as drop you this time in the morning.
  32. There’s nothing wrong in having favourites from one’s own canon of fiction. Especially if they bring a diurnal apple or angle. Your The Vicious Circle today is full of angles competing for attention; I love any new angles that emerge spontaneously from creative writing, one ricocheting off another in rivalry. Each an appetising slice of the apple pie chart.
  33. Having reviewed the next flash fiction here over a year ago, my re-reading of it this morning makes me believe that The Time Tunnel Orchid is a Rhys Hughes masterpiece. I am now nearer that plant’s future present moment than I was then.
  34. “One day, it occurred to the King of Krokh that instead of bartering for the precious dates, he could simply walk over the border and take as many as he pleased.” The Two Kingdoms is a fable for our times, even though it isn’t a proper fable. If it were, it’d be in the other Rhysop book. A very clever flash fiction, too, but with unforgiveable wordplay at the end!
  35. The Landslide
    A tale of evocative language-slide – with timely relevance to the previous story: “The election was over. The people had risen up, like yeast bubbling through a cask of home-brewed ale, and had made their choice.” But a Rhys message or moral is never a straightforward one or it actually changes its mind partway through the text. Here the slide is halted by nails and stigmata.
  36. “…a Rhys message or moral is never a straightforward one or it actually changes its mind partway through the text.”
    One of the most pertinent things anyone has ever said about my work. Thanks Des! The changing its mind part is utterly true, but no one has mentioned it before now!
  37. A message or moral or leitmotif or conceit can indeed change their minds, even if the author doesn’t want them to do so. Conceits can become very conceited and the next conceit about the Danube being questioned about its riparian identity by its own estuary speaking is at first amusing, if silly, but it becomes even sillier when the tusks are made removable and then the conceit actually goes back to the beginning and changes the title itself! This one has The Seal of Disapproval from its reviewer as well as its river.
  38. weirdmngThe Hidden Sixpence
    A writer like Rhys who can get through such endless sheets of embracing text needs to believe at least in himself.
  39. Of Exactitude in Theology
    The dismantling of the ad infinitum, ad absurdum philosophy concerned with the Existence of God followed by the necessary concept of the dismantling of that dismantling. A neatly (God)forsaken irony, an irony upon an irony that it is meant to appear as if it is appearing in ‘an ancient and obscure book’. This is self-evidently not an ancient book, unless you are reading it in the distant future.
  40. The Matchmaker
    A work of unmitigated pessimism, a fable without a moral, innocence destroyed. It should appeal to those who read Ligotti’s anti-natalist fiction and non-fiction. The screams of despair, though, are stage screams or what might have appeared in Beano speech-bubbles… A hellodrama that has goodbye built in.
    This Gloomy Seahorse book duly reaches the end of the first page of the contents list.
Surface Tension
“I’m a one-liner comedian…”
And that’s left me with a durable, relevant image, of Rhys delivering some of these flash fictions and his fables as a stand-up. They’d work even more brilliantly that way than they do on the page. Even the sillier ones would no doubt become less silly, or even more silly, whichever is best for each of the audience. A stand-up on a cruise liner, with the sea bearing a flotsam of subjunctives. There are some really good one-liner obliquities in this story that resonate off the page as I imagine Rhys delivering them in person. It’s him now knocking on my door, as he can’t deliver them properly through the letter-box.
  • Thanks Des! This is one of my “language driven” stories in which the ‘plot’ is entirely driven by the logic of word association and has nothing to do with empirical causality… I enjoy writing these kinds of stories more than almost any kind, but there simply isn’t an audience for this kind of stuff. The last writer who used this technique and enthused a wide readership with it was Spike Milligan. The form is defunct…. but I love it anyway!
    How about Professor Stanley Unwin who probably does this still in some far off place?
    Ramblings of a Sea Dog seems an engagingly child-like (rather than childish) language-driven story, too. It is like entering a world I wished I inhabited every day. In fact, I do do this every day (smiley), by reading these flashes of far from, close to, exact with and not yet.
    Midknight Express
    “He raised his visor and blinked. Stale air rushed to greet the day.”
    An amazing coincidence as stale air did thus greet me this morning as I took my above-titled regular tonic of these flash fictions, having just yesterday reviewed a Rhys story entitled ‘Stale Air’ here from another book, and in another place.
    ‘Midknight Express’ (one of this author’s titles with a slightly forced wordplay, I feel!) is about Rhys himself, or at least The Duel of Fame part of him, whereby he is a chivalrous force travelled to our modern world so as to hammer out, on a poetic anvil, his well-meant weapons of absurd and ironic fantasy, only to be met by an express train full of passengers who have heads bent reading other things and not looking out of the windows as they and the train pass through him.
    A Corking Tale
    A genuinely brilliant flash fiction, one that makes Rhys Hughes literature what it is. Even though it has an attempted twist ending that doesn’t come off.
    Twentieth Century Chronoshock
    I thought I had read all the Thornton Excelsior stories by Rhys (several of them in two editions of TQF and one such story in the HA of HA), but I was delighted to discover this new one here – unless I have read it before and it had already been blocked from my memory to obviate a developing phobia of 21st century small press publications. Rhys is certainly good on time conundrums and this story is no exception. The ‘no new taxis’ joke, however, made me cringe.
    The Psychoanalyst
    This is a brilliant flash fiction; it is another that deals with Time issues, a Socratic dialogue with a difference, dealing with an eschatology based on Zeno’s Paradox. Its title should have been changed retroactively by the story’s main conceit but the conceit could never reach that far back, although it’s still heading in that direction.
    The Blanket Ban
    “…but I loosened my duelling dagger in its sheath. A familiar face appeared: it belonged to you, the reader.”
    A wide-rangingly Rhysian auto-extrapolation upon using one thing to obviate the same thing. Including, as I read it, hot coffee to obviate global warming. (It would have been too late to abide by this story’s last sentence – “Read this story in the morning for maximum effect.” – if I had not already abided by it.)
    This one is another of my personal favourites. :-)
    Kharms Before The Storm
    “(A story in the style of Daniil Kharms.)”
    An educational footnote about Kharms ends this delightful tale of the sort of mischievous verbal trick I regularly play upon any relatives who visit me. None have yet thrown me out of the window, though.
    Keep Kharms and be an Absurdist
    “(Another story in the style of Daniil Kharms.)”
    Wringing the changes… full of moebius section logic chopping, as two tetchy individuals ricochet into an accidental pact with death.
    Doom Laden Haven
    “A risotto of death.”
    A compelling vision of the disasters expected to destroy the earth destroying each other first. Then there is a very weak joke at the end of this story that destroys an otherwise brilliant story.
    The Metaphorical Marriage
    This one is brilliant ALL THROUGH. Possibly my favourite so far. It seems to me to be the essence of what surrealism is meant to be. And a memorable first sentence to end all first sentences: “She was as open as turquoise, as smug as a crouton, as whipped as a hat, as judicious as bronze, as broken as an indoor wasp.”
    The Casual Comment
    “Did I crease you up?” casually asked the flash fiction.
    “No, but I laughed out loud at your ending,” I replied.
    Somewhere in ebookland, a crumpled smartphone frowned.
    Flash in the Pantheon
    This eponymous umbrella of a title is an onwardly urgent flash of a fiction that would have been ideal for my recent publication of an anthology of classical music horror stories – and ends with an outrageously great punch-line flourish of the maestro’s literary baton.
    I see I am now halfway through the book by the number of pages if not yet by the number of flash fictions.
    Last night I wrote this about RH’s ‘The Rook and the Jackdaw’ in my real-tale review of his Rhysop’s Fables. Serendipitously, I read the next flash fiction this morning, the one entitled The Moon and the Well. Exquisite and definitely my favourite so far.
    When I started what turned out to be my dreamcatcher real-time reviews in 2008, I had no idea that they would serve me as well as I hope they serve the authors and readers of the books that I trawl for dreams and haunting memories. And, instead of novels and stories slipping in and out of my ageing mind as they used to do (however good they were), they are now caught in some net forever, I feel. I know ‘forever’ is a long time, but this flash fiction read this morning makes me feel somehow that ‘forever’ is at last attainable.
    Christmas Overtime
    “You have lost the chance to eat, drink and make Mary.”
    Or did Mary make you? This is a wonderful bah humbug rhapsody against Christmas and its delusions, like (as I see it) undeluding writers about their legacies… But, beyond that, a seriously memorable flash fiction about an empty Christmas stocking.
    The Googol Seasons
    What’s going on? This isn’t supposed to happen!”
    Those in the know will be sure to know that this one is close to my heart, but it seems to have changed its title.
    A googol is a higher number than a trillion, that’s why. :-)
    Funny Bone
    “…Fiona went on holiday and got extremely drunk in the capital city of France.”
    An amusing enough flash fiction, but it doesn’t work brilliantly well because of the perceived pre-planning or contrivance of naming the capital city of France ‘the capital city of France’ until naming it properly in the end punch-line. Or because the reader thought the capital city of France was Rome.
    The Knees
    A great horror story. With a great last line. Plain and simple. Needs to be read.
    N+ Prime
    “If I can’t have Jew, I won’t have tongue.”
    This is a methodical means for poetic outcome. It’s brilliant. Read it. A story of a logical step-by-step irony already embedded in destiny, with randomness fighting back. A bit like the Toynbeean ‘challenge and response’ embedded in the latest Ukraine situation.
    Jean Lescure of the OuLiPo movement invented the “N+7″ technique and I note that there’s a generator on the internet that does the work for you…
    Thanks, Rhys. And after that audit trail’s random-certain oxymoron, we now reach The Snail Path — certainly one of your greatest works, in my humble opinion. At once futile, poignant, frightening even…but hopeful, too, with another strange paradoxidant that feeds the mulch of much of your fiction growth, and when the irony or fantasy is peeled away one can discover the pithy or often perversely uplifting meaning.
    This story was inspired by the fact that I once climbed inside a large wicker laundry basket and used pipe cleaners for antennae.
    The Business Diary of a Madman
    Read and reviewed by another madman. Does anyone agree with me this is a story about cannibalism? Prove me sane.
    The Locksmith
    “Animals came to Obo the Bonobo for a specific reason; and everybody knew it.”
    This is a substantial flash fiction, if it is possible to have such a thing! Well, if there is, this is it. For me, it is about the labelling interaction between human and animals, and the philosophical theme will continue to resonate the more you think about what is essentially a fable, extrapolating upon the anthropomorphisms in Rhysop’s Fables that I am concurrently reviewing here. Also, serendipitously, yesterday, there was this interaction included in a discussion forum under the topic ‘Animals':-
    Someone said: “Therefore, to call people animals should not be an insult. This is what I would like to contend.”
    I replied: “However, those animals anthropomorphised by people’s fables and cartoons may consider it to be an insult to be called people.”
    On The Deck
    “If only I could find a man strong enough to capture me and then let me go again, I would be happy. To be enticed and then rejected out of love…”
    This wonderful fiction upon a destination-less cruise liner I rejected for any of its perceived authorially intended irony although I normally love ironic fantasy. But I enjoy poetic fiction as serious literature, too, and I found myself capturing this piece for its sheer literary joy as a modern story without any irony at all. And it worked.
    A Rather Depressed Young Man
    A thought-provoking ghost story taking place in the Middle England of Amateur Dramatics, vicars, poodles, cribbage etc., with a twist ending, or rather with a final tuck and backward pike. If this were a fable, though, I wondered at its moral? Especially in the context of this author’s well known view that depressed young men tend to read Lovecraft and healthy young men go mountain climbing.
    The Figure of Speech
    “She had a great figure of speech.
    I metaphor a drink and tried to coax a simile.
    She said, ‘I never cheat when I play on words.'”

    And to pre-empt the end I kissed her ellipsis.
    Eyelashes in my Nepenthe
    “We’ve all got to go back home some time.”
    This is now definitely my favourite flash fiction in this book so far. It is an exquisite prose poem, with syncopations of meaning that probably exceeds any controlled prose jamming by any other living writer, in my estimation. It is about controlled regret, still trying wildly to escape that authorial control. Everyone should read it and the author should re-read it and dwell on his own cavortings of autonomous words and ride them like a literary rodeo.
    Postmodern Picnic
    A rather hit and miss riff on the theme of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, with one line that was memorable: “And they both grew old in the search and the food they didn’t have went rotten and inedible.” The best line, however, wasn’t there at all so rather went to waste.
    Quiet Flows the Don Juan
    This demonstrates a child-like insistence – common to much of this author’s work I’ve read – on getting to the bottom of things, in detail (cf the story I have just read and reviewed by Alasdair Gray entitled ‘Time Travel’ where there is a similar logical ‘insistence’ to get to the bottom of how a piece of chewing gum managed to lodge itself between the toes of a bed-ridden old man) but here the Rhys Hughes extrapolation is upon the song ‘Cry Me A River’ and thus upon the nature of rivers and who could possibly cry them – reaching a rarefied and oblique child-like vision that flows from such an insistence, a vision that is beyond the ability of most grown-ups to grasp.
    Pontoon Bridge
    …across the same River Juan. A play on the rules of the Pontoon card game and featuring the VW Beetle from ‘Postmodern Picnic’, representing a riparian current between separate fictions.
    The City That Was Itself
    “When a man is lost in Itselfia he is always in his desired place,…”
    This may not objectively be the greatest flash fiction in this book, but it is the most important and I find it hard to imagine any I have yet to read exceeding it on that basis. Never leave Itselfia, Rhys, in the way that the story’s protagonist does. It will come good in the end.
    The Culture Shock
    ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann (my favourite novel of all time) as a culture within a seedbed of pulmonary disease? Not exactly. But this is a hilarious envisioning of literature as a clogged and clotted dubiety with institutions set up in a 1984 fashion to safeguard such infections spreading. Cheered me up this morning.
    Invisible Letters
    I was led to believe that every ‘flash fiction’ in this book was no longer than 999 words. I have not counted the words in this story, but I would be very surprised if it wasn’t longer than 999 words.
    Form and content are equally important to Rhys Hughes fiction as well as its literal meaning often outdoing any figurative meaning as I noted here yesterday. Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
    This story is exactly 999 words long. :-)
    Making a Request
    Hilarious vision of the whole of Wales (or the whale of Wholes – my conceit, not this flash fiction’s) using a giant megaphone metaphor for the whole peoples of Wales to speak to the sun through the covering cloud. Being only half-Welsh and living in England I was not asked to add my voice to this cloudy loud Welsh weather satire, despite my wearing an odd hat shaped like a coracle.
    The redolent sound of frying eggs, but more a dark threnody upon life’s implications stemming from such otherwise ordinary sounds of cooking and eating by ordinary people. A very effective horror story that all horror genre exponents should read. Much food for though crammed into the words made available from this pan of literature.
    Volcano Zoo
    A neat flush fiction with extinct volcanos where their cones are caged in a zoo for all to admire. Yet they are not really extinct, like the veils and piques, vales and peaks, the rugged range of crepitating cones that is Rhys Hughes. He has, until recently, kept captured some of his, for me, most powerful volcanoes ready to erupt again after 12 years of dormancy, and they have just erupted and are still erupting one by one. I spent most of yesterday experiencing and describing a newly released mind-blowing cluster of such cones. A journey now open to advice, my advice, its path from the cage’s gaping door for you to follow into the wilds of imagination: too long pent up, now gushing philosophical and visionary and absurdist lava into your brain.
    In My Own Hands
    Aptly I quoted this yesterday here from ‘The Herb-Garden of Earthly Delights':
    “(but if all the world’s a stage, where do the audience sit?)”
    A very clever flash fiction, but I’m not sure why. The best sort.
    Did he suddenly resign himself to a possible figurative lesson (regarding his marital strife): “You’ve made your bed, now sleep in it!”?
    Cosmic Bagatelle
    ‘Detected’ and then ‘deflected’, a story that resonated and ricocheted this morning.
    A Post-Disaster Story
    A second asteroid story in a row, or this one is described as a “mini-saga”, although this description ‘NOTE’, if part of the whole thing, turns it into something longer than a “mini-saga”. Another way to avoid cosmic disaster, delaying it with footnotes? As Tristram Shandy delayed his own birth (and thus his death) by a series of long digressions as well as things tantamount to footnotes.
    A Pretty Face
    Another 'mini-saga' (a short story in exactly 50 words with beginning, middle and end plus a title not exceeding 15 words) – this one being an imaginably gory transvestite horror story.
    In Eclipseville
    “…for a sweet melody might likewise be defined as a sequence of unrelated notes linked ‘only’ by a key signature.”
    This is SUPERB. Really. It is the optimal Rhys Hughes flash fiction, even eclipsing the Moonville and Sunsetville flash fictions, combining, as it does, a theme and variations on the nature of shadows (as if composed by Scriabin) with a literary-imaginary exquisition that insists it’s real as well as dream-like. A fragile truce between solid and non-solid. For the hard-hearted as well as any readers with melting hearts. And please do not allow any perceived floweriness or over-enthusiasm in my review deter any hard-nosed Hemingway-lovers or Horror genre cutthroats from seeking out this genuinely indispensable work.
    Owls Are a Hoot
    A poignantly poetic play upon one’s belief that what one sees is what one sees and nothing can explain it other than what one sees and believes it to be. Meanwhile, the owls are not what they seem.
    With this morning’s flush through the imaginarium of my mind — A Pony Tale: a flush so tiny, its ‘THE END’ is nearly as long as the whole tail itself — I reach the end of the second contents page of this book and thus now point the way to the continuation of this veritable Rapunzel of a real-time review in the comment stream –
    – from tomorrow morning hopefully.
    1. nullimmortalis
    2. Gorgon but Not Forgotten
      “Then I saw the shadows of snakes.”
      You won’t be able to imagine the lasting force-by-frisson of that sentence in its context unless you experience the context itself in today’s Rhys Hughes flash fiction… Snakes as part of the Gorgon myth or escaped human entrails?
    3. The Sink Monster
      This inadvertently has all the adjuncts of the film I watched last night of Alan Bennett’s An Englishman Abroad, including soap, sink plug, and the absurdity and Englishness of someone like Guy Burgess…
      It is actually the most original of all the flash fictions in this book so far and the most memorable, if not the best, but not overtly enjoyable; it is a work of painful art.
    4. Geronimo
      My review of this one is the whole text of it shown here:
      Make your own moons up.
    5. I Saw a Ghost Ship
      “Are you pulling my leg?”
      A delightful series of puns made true, kidding me, literarily.
    6. The Tribal Philosophers
      The art of some great absurdist-ironical literature is to kid you into believing how unspectacular it is while reading it until in immediate hindsight you realise it was wittily astonishing. This is one such example.
    7. I reviewed the next story a short while ago here about a fiction magazine where it appeared – and I then said:
      [[… But you can taste differences in the nature of air, acrid or pure, smoky or scented, etc.; yet air is air, it’s only what’s in the air that makes it seem different. Meanwhile, after reading this magazine’s last fiction by Rhys Hughes, a short coda to the inspiring set of fiction stories I have just reviewed, I am tempted to think of the difference between Fresh Air and Stale Air: a logical child-like extrapolation of their respective bodily invigorations (or otherwise) that resonates ironically and subtly with the nature of horror literature, whatever its emotions, cruel or sublime or absurd. Urban horror or countryside horror.
      A coda with codes, ‘Stale Air’ is not a silly story as the story itself claims. ‘Inspiring’ is a word I just used above about this magazine’s gestalt. That word is also related to breathing. Lovecraft’s Cool Air. Or the head-banging heat on Barber’s bus. Air touches all parts of the body, inside and out. ]]
    8. The Sun Lamp
      An illuminating sequel to ‘The Tribal Philosophers’.
      By the way, ‘Flash in the Pantheon’ is the only ordinarily printed book in the world that I imagine can act as braille to a disabled visionary.
    9. The Falling Lover
      A Lawrence-Durrellian configuration of an event seen from three points of view. In a Lawrence-Durrellian prose style. Exquisite.
      I wonder how others will see it? The event thus adumbrated by the story’s prose as well as the intrinsic value and enjoyment of the story itself.
    10. The Imp of the Icebox
      “Cold womb, frost goddess, snow mother, barren and hard, chill me with your icy breath.”
      It would be easy to take this whole book for granted, crammed with delicacies often rich, sometimes spare, tasty, intellectually nutritious and the only way is to treat each fiction as a discrete gem to savour no more frequently than on a daily basis as well as leaving the assessment of the book’s gestalt until its very end. Today’s fiction is a case in point. You have to open the door to your mind to discover its light.
    11. Virgil Leading Dante into Hell Takes a Wrong Turning
      Despite the ending of this puckishly infernal story being predictable with the appearance of bikes in Hell, it did not lessen the force of my laughing out loud at the sheer literary bravado. A wrong turning was also taken with the name-checking of a painter, Bosch not Brueghel being more likely I’d say.
    1. The painting that inspired this story (which I wrote back in 1992) was *The Triumph of Death* which I finally saw for real in Madrid in 2007. But my very first exposure to it (believe it or not) was as the cover for Black Sabbath’s Greatest Hits album, which I first saw in 1983… Things often linger for ages.
    1. The Precious Mundanity
      This should be read on all Philosophy of Religion courses. A touching and thought-provoking inversion or retroversion of Godly immanence.
    2. The Earthworm’s Ecstasy
      “…a miracle happened.”
      A half miracle, as it turned out.
    3. Moonchaser
      An engaging ‘what if’ about the nature of Earth’s apparent moon, whether two of each sex seen singly, or conjoined moonmouths or the four toes fallen at the foot of a giant statue (the latter being my own conceit, not the story’s!), this flash fiction has lit up my day with something far more interesting than the sun predictably shining upon me through the window at this very moment and whose sunnish existence’s only mystery is when it’s behind chance clouds in a one-trick pony of its cheap tease.
    4. The Jeweller
      An absolutely brilliant sunflash of a flush fiction, where (SPOILER ALERT!) an attractive girl jeweller (I visualise her as attractive) traps the sun into showing its pedantry by enticing it to nit-pick on her cute mistake with the word ‘pendant’. (The sun has not had a good press in this and the previous fiction, I see. The sun has got its bling and tat on, hiphiphooray.)
    5. Fairy Dusk
      This book started a month or two ago with a ‘Goblin Sunrise’ and today’s story is a further delightful extrapolation of hiring incompetent helpers, and here it is to paint the landscape. I sometimes think of my own stories being written by incompetent helpers who can’t see the wood for the trees. Or they themselves are the trees?
    6. Bunch of Oddballs
      Our dying planet abandons all of us for not preventing one of us writing such fictions as this one.
    7. The Apricot Jar
      “Every man and woman is allowed to eat a secret apricot.”
      This is a brilliantly oblique resonance of a morality tale, one that would have helped bolster some of the more effete fey feeble fables in the Rhysop’s Fables book that I am simultaneously reviewing on a daily basis.
      (If I am ever punched on the nose by an author whose work I review I suspect it will start to ooze apricot jam rather than blood.)
    8. Deluged with Aunts
      A tale worthy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories.
    9. The Sundial
      A story with a bad press for the sun, yet another negative..
      No wonder it keeps away from Wales!
    10. dflpic2Better The Devil
      A Socratic Dialogue to end all Socratic Dialogues leading to a shock ending about the Devil you know and the Devil you don’t know.
      Dydks and Dybbuks!
    11. The Vice-Versa Squad
      This feels familiar as if I have read it before but that’s maybe because it’s about things being done backward. It seems to be a tangential Thornton Excelsior story, and has a brilliant conceit about a foolproof way of catching criminals plus a wonderful wordplay on ‘poker’. Fireproof if not foolproof.
    12. The Fire Jump
      A classic Rhys Hughes flash fiction, where the fire wordplay works as a diversion (or fire-break) from the stunning twist ending.
    13. Taking Time Off
      “…and all those old favourites that are nobody’s favourite.”
      Just in that one phrase we have a wealth of meaning. The Two-Toed Sleuth again and he plays now with the word time. I love this one.
    14. I am now taking what I consider to be a well-earned summer break from real-time reviewing or Dreamcatching books until September.
    15. The Holiday Makers
      This extrapolation on holidays around this time of the year, that I have just experienced as a reinvigorating break from real-time reviewing, seems astonishingly predictive of something I could not have predicted without reading this today for the first time!
      Deals, too, with the work ethic and creation or discovery of lost things that permeate this book. A new Goblin sunrise, but possibly with rain impending. Poignant and delightful.
    16. The Jungle Bird
      “…and civilisation collapsed in lots of small ways, and all those small ways added up to one big way.”
      …reminding me of the Summer’s world attrition just past, a telling and hilarious flash fiction, one that makes you weep and laugh at the same time. Also the toucan once saved my last balcony as well as the world’s…
      Man Toocan triumph.
    17. Loafing Around
      A long Swiftian flash fiction, if flash fictions can actually be or just appear long, with the simultaneously silliest and cleverest ending ever. Only Rhys can bring this off.
    18. Unconvincing Sausage
      A clever clever skit on equality for anthropomorphs, their responsibilities as well as rights.
      I equally plea for readers’ rights when their minds are skewed into bouts of absurdity by the likes of Rhys Hughes. One wonders if there is meat in his sausage or just airy-fairy wordplay.
    19. The Infringement
      “I’m a photographer and I took the photo of that rabbit that you are painting! You’re a plagiarist!”
      A delightful satire on the Ligotti-Pizzolatto plagiarism issue that occurred during the recent summer break of this review.
    20. The Nose Drill
      The Pinocchio syndrome taken provokingly to coital lengths of truth and deceit.
    21. The Birth of Opera
      After “lady(fat)+song=over” in yesterday’s flash fiction, today we have a treatment of a know-it-all who utters this saying in full, and gives us an insight into know-it-allness as well as opera. Wagner, eat your heart out, I say.
    22. Grammar Police
      Having long been a descriptivist rather than a prescriptivist in the rules of grammar and semantics and intentional fallacy, I gave Wittgenstein a dose of Preterite juice and all was well with the world… As was this blue flash flash flash fiction that stirred me to do it. (My Grandma was a major figure in my formative years).
    23. The Reversed Comma
      A nifty Thornton Excelsior story about commas that speed up rather than slow down, and I’d only add that ‘amocking’ (using a- as in apolitical or amoral), could be a variation of ‘ammoc’, and is the act of using a pointless comma, one that neither speeds or slows up, typographically like a postrophe. Also known as an Oxford comma?
    24. Downsizing
      “I don’t mean that I wore a bicycle costume but that I had surgery to convert myself into such a machine. Puppets can do that easily.”
      But it is harder for puppets to write about it afterwards!
      By the way, that quote is a spoiler, but thankfully with this particular flash fiction there is not much to spoil.
    25. Brief Hilltop Halt
      A hilarious conversation between a bicycle and a tree’s rustling that gave a hiss to its voice. Rhys is a rustler himself, rolling, rolling, rolling, get those absurdists rolling. Áburshisseds. Pedlar Bisonkisseds, too.
    26. The Bicycle Mine
      Once a bicycle turns back to the puppet it once was it is then able again to get a proper bicycle and ride it. I loved the idea of a land where there are mines for household artefacts and other contraptions of modern living like bikes, better than only being able to mine for coal or gold. This book is a mine, too. A mine of absurd and witty conceits and mind-stretching jokes. All mine, now!
    27. Potato Soup
      In hindsight, this had the most obvious and outrageous ending. However, its skill was that I never predicted it till I got to the end! Amazing.
    28. Heavens Ajar
      These last few ongoing flash fictions in the book seem to make a whole story together, so I may finish this marathon dreamcatcher review today in honour of the day I realised that fact. Here, characteristic of this author, an honest common expression is turned into fruit for new ironic absurdities of meaning, at the cost of the smalltalker who made it: “hey, the heavens are about to open”, looking up to the darkening sky, talking to his neighbour, forgetting that the world today (this day) is indeed on the brink of or has already commenced an accretive default de facto piecemeal World War III.
      The Mushroom Cloud
      It seems apt that the war just started takes the mushroom cloud from the previous fiction, with the delightful non sequitur conceit that a place like Stonehenge needs double glazing to stop the draughts. Only non sequiturs have traction of real meaning, I propound. Like today following yesterday willy nilly and ignoring any threads between them when all things new arise in the guise of continuation.
      Whirlpool Face
      A wonderful theme and variations on the puppet’s Pinocchio Nose Syndrome. An anthropomorphic puppet that seems so right for our world when choppers come down like in Punch and Judy,
      Black Ops
      “I know all about sabotage, propaganda, disorientation! I can manipulate foreign media–“
      Thornton Excelsior and another set of nose operations, the ‘lower nose’ as some call it, black market ops, I assume. So dreadfully ironic in view of today’s breaking news…
      Internet squabbles and World Wars, who can tell between them; they have the same root: us.
      The Nosedive
      The Lower Nose whence we all drip – but every reader now knows that “silence is often the truest truth.” The Mucky Puppet’s final essence of ‘rare sense’.
      This closing set of knowing flashes ends one of those big illuminary beacons, a great book that needs a gestalt to make it somehow the greatest of the pantheon. One day, I shall make a great gestalt for all the many many books of Rhys Hughes, no mean task from someone like me who means well but sometimes sadly acts mean against my better meaning.
      Whatever the eventual gestalt, you know what I mean when I say that many of these flash fictions (you know who you are) are great in themselves as separate gems without a gestalt. Perhaps my own nose for genius , my last ‘rare sense’, my attar of roses.

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