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.


44 thoughts on “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’: http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/tallest-stories-by-rhys-hughes-a-real-time-review/#comment-5986

  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. 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.

  5. Man Who Gargled With Gargoyle Juice
    My previous review of this story: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/692-2/#comment-412
    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….?

  6. “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?)

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. “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.

  10. 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.

  11. “…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).

  12. 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.

  13. 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.”

  14. “…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.

  15. “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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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…”

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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’… http://www.kafka.org/index.php?aid=284

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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…

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. “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!

  31. 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.

  32. “…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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

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