A fearless faith in fiction — Employing, since 2008, a Kantian or Jungian sensibility and an ‘intentional fallacy’ consciousness — Various passions of the reading moment — Walter de la Mare, ELizabeth BOWen, ROBERT aiCKMAN and many others old and new — Please click my name below for this site’s navigation and my backstory as intermittent photographer, writer, editor, publisher & reviewer.
I am about to start real-time reviewing this new book by Rhys Hughes, of whose work I am arguably the biggest fan, and synchronously by preternatural means I shall be reviewing it alongside THE PARIS NOTEBOOKS by Quentin S. Crisp HERE, published by the same publisher and received by me in the same parcel … and according to his Facebook, Rhys Hughes is currently taking a short trip to Paris ten years after Crisp’s….
Pages 7 – 17
A delightful theme and variations, so far, on Wales, its legendary rain, its clouds and its sheep. I would say it’s absurdist, too, but I am half Welsh and I know better than those who are not Welsh at all. I am confident that it will not welsh you, but that’s your loss, if so. Clouding as a form of fantastical deception, shelter as a choice of being pissed on or simply drenched by God. Not much to choose between a sheep’s nethers or a sky’s clouds “colluding to ensure I become saturated.” To make me who and what I am.
(Photo taken this evening where I currently live, but everywhere is Wales my father said.)
Pages 18 – 36
“, that cloud farmers never stooped so low.”
Fictionatronic patchwork of conceits, like a piece of modern classical music flowing along a transparent pipework of irrigable Welsh rain crossing-continents with rictus faces staring out at you dead or alive, one of them reading this book, all stemming from a character and his author each eschewing a job as a writer as that would make this work too precious, too pretentious. They’d likely choose to be cloud farmers instead…
And there is much else, including Oxford commas and fat people on buses. I laughed out loud like a drain.
Pages 37 – 45
“We all our bears to cross. This one straddled a river when it fell asleep.”
Which is rather apt when you take into account that I finished reviewing BORNE by Jeff VanderMeer here just about an hour or so ago. I think I will matchmake these two books for eventual marriage, just as this book dates dates themselves so that single days cannot be accumulated into Welsh rainfall figures if they become married days. Here through a wormhole the dates can be centuries apart.
Rainfall in Wales is exaggerated? Maybe, but my passions of the moment are heartfelt, such as my enjoyment of this book so far. A novel of concepts not people, although characters owning such concepts are at least inferred. An ideafic.
The most important concept of all time happens to have already been conceived in this book: “an exaggeration often gets to the core of an experience more effectively and honestly than a statement of truth.”
Pages 46 – 56
I think this has a style that I need to nail down, a style representing some sort of departure for this author. Meanwhile, I understand he is back from Paris, and so now I can compare it to the Paris Notebooks, which will be like not only comparing sheep and clouds but also comparing apples and oranges. A new departure for me – if not a departure in the Mondaugen designed bus, along with my oboe.
I hope the author or publisher don’t mind me quoting a bit of this text here to show why I am this author’s biggest fan (no exaggeration):
“‘Don’t be surprised that a clockwork man can have children! The clue is in the word “spring” in offspring.’
‘But he’s a cloud now! What happened to him?’
‘He ran off to join the cirrus.'”
By the way, here is my comment in 2012 in relation to my ROUND-HEADED CLUB, a comment – as appended to my earlier review of this author’s SANGRIA IN THE SANGRAAL – that describes my own attitude to clouds: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/sangria-in-the-sangraal/#comment-3411
Just now –
Pages 57 – 67
“I start thinking about the Queen and the crown of her head. If she wears a crown on her crown, does this mean she is greedy?”
In recent days, she didn’t wear a crown at all during the Opening of Parliament ceremony. A turn up for this book, especially as she wore an EU hat in open rebellion against Brexit.
Much talk of some European languages and their mock resemblance to Welsh, Welsh rain statistics in a pie chart, Welsh this, Welsh that, and doing in Rome what Romans do.
Still trying to nail down the literary soul of this new Rhys Hughes book. It is one like many of his with a free-and-easy stream of wordplay, but one with a convoluted knot somewhere that I have not yet found let alone untied.
Two years ago today –
Pages 68 – 82
On page 82, I have reached further in this book than you have. About halfway. And what it confirms on page 82 is exactly what I had been thinking about this book. Yet, there is something about this book of which perhaps the author is unaware. The book so far has a child-like disingenuousness of “daftly amusing” exploration often coupled with mature absurdism, a blend characteristic of this author’s canon of work. Except there is something else, something that entices me further down this book’s road to discover it. It has not telegraphed its ending so much as telephoned it – in a disguised or, as this book itself might say, ‘quipcealed’ voice.
Pages 83 – 87
“You know how it is when you read a book that you instantly connect with…”
Or connect it with others.
When I started this review alongside this one a few days ago, I had no expectation of meaningful connection between them (other than arriving through my letterbox in the same parcel.) However, they both primarily say personal stuff in a way that I could never have anticipated, and in fact I believe the books, if not the authors, are reincarnations of each other. Two diaries (effective diaries of the creative soul as well as of real life processes) in some serendipitous and synchronous and synergistic relationship hidden from each other at the real-time of writing them ?
Also in these pages, some fascinating ‘saying stuff’ about Brautigan. (I made reference to this author in 2013 here.)
Pages 88 – 91
Amazing! QSC talks about suicide today (just finished reviewing that bit this morning ) in the parallel review book and so does Rhys Hughes here on the same day that I read it. I think this is a novel masquerading as a saying-stuff diary or vice versa or an ambiguous form of both. The light thrown on suicide and death by Thatcher is a wonderful insight.
Also resonances with Borne (reviewed very recently) and Oothangbart (reviewed a few months ago).
Literature is perhaps a circular bus.
“If the Queen has disguised herself as a bear once, she can do it again;”
Pages 92 – 102
“An inverted rainbow is a grotesque sight, I don’t know why. It is somehow degrading.”
I feel degraded simply reading that. I think the knot I’m seeking in this work is a pessimistic one that has not been seen within this author before. Not a jokey pessimism. That is a common Rhysian trait in his work. But real pessimism. Perhaps held secretly until now? He tries to hide it in this section of pages by a reprise of his Lovecraft scorn and skeleton trope I have seen before. I tried to laugh, but couldn’t. When I then saw the duel between Oxygen and Hydrogen leading to Water, I wondered what a blend of Lovecraft and Rhys Hughes would be like? If it is a glass quarter full, that would prove something at least. Meanwhile, I continue to seek a hidden knot in this book, hidden even from the author perhaps. I will not give up saying stuff about this book’s saying stuff.
Pages 103 – 108
“…endless rooms, all mouldy, connected by dim and depressing corridors, all mouldy.”
And I believe I have now reached that aforementioned knot, or knots, as in a translation of ‘ligotti’? This is probably the darkest and strongest piece of writing, outside of his matchless absurdist brilliance, that I have ever seen from this author. A vision of Wales that perhaps he is making or seeing while on the brink of leaving Wales in real life? Incredibly, these passages inside the mouldy living quarters match EXACTLY something I read a few minutes ago in the parallel review of the Paris Notebooks here. The comparison is a synergy between two uniquenesses about the same dark and damning scenario. As I say, incredible. I actually mis-read “pit ponies” as “pit peonies.” Only those reading both books alongside me, will understand that connection between them!
Also incredible is the diatribe in these pages against Wales’ best known writer Dylan Thomas. Only yesterday, Rhys said something on FB about my recently taking up the real-time reviewing (here) of ‘Under the Volcano’ by Malcolm Lowry, a novel that he has been tempted to read but deterred by its ‘drunkenness’. Here, in these pages, Rhys gives a meaningful and striking diatribe about being drunk in connection with the one about Thomas. There is some amazing writing in these pages, and is essential reading for any student of the Rhys Hughes canon. I will end with one of the most striking descriptions here of Thomas…about whom Rhys seems to have even more antipathy than he does about Lovecraft!
“They milk his chins and jowls without surcease; and the milk that dribbles from his posthumous reputation is rancid with foamy beer and distilled spirits.”
Pages 109 – 133
“…whether the Pope did really shit in the woods or not,”
Or not. Having now reached beyond this saying-stuff-of-a-book’s knot that I sought, I relish with anticipation consuming the rest of the book in two wonderful bites, this being the first bite. You will not need details to wallow here yourself. A sort of absurdist debriefing, accentuating a mixed mood transgulag upon that once-sought knot (or not), differentiating it from its future, a future reading of Wilson the writer and other characters that are not characters in this authorially child-like self-referentiality of mature characterless wordplaying literature, including literature differentiated by being written by clean or dirty hands. See Sartre’s ‘Les Mains Sales’, I say. And Diderot’s ‘Le Neveu de Rameau.’ There has always been a special oboe in Rameau, I suggest. And a bus to Lebanon. The inverted rainbow is now being used for a Noah-and-his-Ark conceit. The knot protrudes. A work written. By clouds. Forming, by the synchronised shards of random truth and fiction, the complete works of Francis Bacon. Sir to you and me. A bear borne. The mis-triangulated elixirs of youth counted on the fingers of one hand, and the seven ambiguities on another.
Pages 134 – 160
A removal of a gestalt system, a dreamcatcher net of nerves, by dint of tugging at a bit of it disguised as a hair, is like plucking each bit from this book and then hyper-extrapolating, as I do. A bus as a circular argument and, thanks to Mondaugen, a plane into an invented answer to the problem of social division. Counting clouds instead of sleep. Tesques instead of Mosques. A pocket human fountain that reminds me of what Duchamp called his pissoir.
And, then, another knot, this one powerful, too, a chicken heart tumour or cancer, Cthulhu, and a significant essay on Lovecraft that transcends this author’s otherwise negative attitude to him. Leading to something I mentioned earlier, from inside knowledge, now made public:
“I wonder if the hideous chicken heart was saving up for an airline ticket so it could escape Wales for a sunnier and drier region of the world.”
I hope that is not on the part of the plane left behind in Wales. Nor the plane that becomes an inverted rainbow.
This book is like the cake that is left out in the rain. A tune from homonyms for the oboe. The boner principle. Mummification or simple parthenogenetic fiction and late labelling. The best ending ever. The best ending ever. So said Flaubert’s parrot.
A cloudgod, after all. A-Dios.
Thanks for everything, Rhys.
Cross-referenced with R.A. Lafferty’s Nor Limestone Islands: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/the-best-of-r-a-lafferty/#comment-15330