The Three Rhysian Tartari of the Nineties and Noughties



My previous reviews of Rhys Hughes HERE

My previous reviews of Tartarus Press HERE

When I finally dreamcatch these books via a re-reading of them, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

18 thoughts on “The Three Rhysian Tartari of the Nineties and Noughties

    To Jilly


    “They are slimy scoundrels to a man and woman; swarthy, bristly, leering and jeering rogues, scourges of obscure compass-points, bright blue with lewd tattoos.”

    A cat called Herodotus tells of his nine lives to the narrator, while he washes, up, the narrator not the cat. But there seems to be a sort of washing up by both of them, the beginning of a writing career and its end. Beset by rogues.
    A tale that, in already perfect Rhysian style, excels some of the best of this author’s later work that is still ensuing nearer towards the end of his life. This story itself, as it turns out in retrospect, is the cat’s own tale of its ninth life and first death. Its combined recounting and cause, via a möbius absurdism. And all of us who will one day fall into our own soup from the top of the crockery we have stacked.


    There is a quality about this that seems more wild, more mosaical, than this author’s later work. It has the readerly quality of not understanding it all but knowing that one does understand it deep down. Maybe it has a vintage wine quality when decanted from this old book. I dread to think what an ebook reprint will do to it, other than dilute it, EVEN if the ebook text is completely unchanged from the old book, which naturally it will be/is. The Jazz player called Dizzy where constructive improvisation depends on entering an alternate world – and a father and toy-maker daughter – a place called UmberScone. The two villains on giblbets. It all SEEMS like real long-lasting literature. It has the bespoke hang of good style that only old books can have, in a time before we were politically correct. Books that are rare and hard to find.
    Reprinting destroys them.

    “You remember the outcry last year, after that spate of attacks on children. “

  3. Thanks Des! The story ‘Worming the Harpy’ in this hardback edition has a crucial scene missing that was reinstated in the paperback edition. The paperback edition also has an extra story that should have been in the original hardback. Plus some other mistakes have been corrected there too. It was so long ago (almost quarter of a century) that I wrote this story and the others in the book that it feels almost as if they are no longer mine…

    The signature and dedication is interesting. I had never signed books before. I didn’t have a proper signature. It was many years before I developed an ‘authorial’ signature. On this book I just wrote my name because I was taken by surprise. I never imagined I was supposed to sign books… 🙂


    “Plodders with the pallor and ambitions of tadpoles attempted to outvomit pretentious book-reviewers and voluptuous editors from Sidcup.”

    Rhys Hughes was ridiculing me for my reviewing even before I became a reviewer. As to the voluptuous editors…?
    I am glad to see that Rhys was just as intent on wild conceits and madcap connections to the nth power even in those early days. He has ever been optimally consistent in writerly fictionatronic excellence if not evolutionary in it. A story of the narrator’s battle with the park keeper over the Star Pearls of a meteorite falling in the park. A battle of words. Well, that was unavoidable. But also of body-parts and paradox. Ending with the truth of the pearls’ ownership.
    As an aside, the park-keeper is called Mellors. Is this the same man as the one in Lady Chatterley’s Lover? Only clue is his “thrusting hips”.

    “There would be yoghurt and honey, moons and daffodils, chimes and rhymes.”

  5. Mellors is definitely the same Mellors as in the Lawrence novel… 🙂
    I loved intertextuality back then (as I still do).
    The tadpole was you (someone absurdly once compared you to a tadpole); the pretentious reviewer was me; and the editor from Sidcup was Pam Creais, I can’t remember why I put us in this particular story, other than because I have always liked Tuckerization…
    I missed the meteor shower last night because I live in Wales where it is always cloudy. I will try to view it tonight instead…


    “The drone has resolved itself into a little boat with an outboard motor.”

    No wonder the boat could enter the Opera House’s attic, being a drone. Of course, drones did not exist when this was written.
    Quasi modulated like one of my favourite operas mentioned in this story: Moses and Aaron by Schoenberg. The first time I have seen it mentioned anywhere! Moses was borne on water. And this is a prophetic tale of global warming and flooding, where the Phantom of the Opera meets Quasimodo who is in post-alchemical beautification, as we can all be, given the transcendence of fiction, if not of Dr Dee. A nifty conceit that flooding does entail the world being left to only those who happened to be living in Ivory towers and other high places, when the flooding came. And there is a beautiful joke in its last sentence…


    “But I am digressing.”

    There are too many things I can tell you about what this substantive story contains, the story I can foresee this author having worked towards as the future end goal of all his writing. It has a madness that is smooth and raw at the same time, with apposite and conflicting similes galore teeming through your brain. Names taken from famous and not so famous Gothic Horror novels and long-chinned fiends and a grimoire with inbuilt flask and mixed methods of use, and a truth that shines out through all the fictional lies and various machinations and characters. How can I do justice to it? It seems to be a ready-made like one of Duchamp’s, a ready-made in the form of a complex moving dream that was meant to exist even before it existed. A rightness of expression filled with manifold wrongnesses, and vice versa, making you think you are dreaming the reading of it, a notch clicked into a new reading dimension that both makes you sleep and makes you wake at the same time. I felt all these things genuinely and I am trying to express what I felt in the best way. The thin man put in a wishing well, just as one example, escapes but then escapes back to it. But I am digressing. I’ll leave you to read it.

  8. Written in early 1995 when I was the poorest I have ever been. I literally had no money at all and no food. I knew I had to survive a week without eating. I decided to write a story and try extra-hard at making it better than my previous work. ‘The Good News Grimoire’ was the moment when I *consciously* decided to attempt to take my work to the next level. This doesn’t mean it actually turned out better than all my earlier stories, but the determination that generated it has stayed with me ever after. That’s why this story is a watershed for me. 🙂


    “The true art of disguise, he maintains, is more a matter of poise than looks.”

    A telling tale of the highwayman Robin Darktree who keeps up a denial about all the increasingly modern things happening around him to change the braggadocio of the road and, thus, changing his job – things such as railways.
    Telling and poignant. A prophetic portrait of self? I would have said pathetic as well as prophetic, but the former word doesn’t seem to fit. Pathos, the root of ‘pathetic’, is paradoxically not so pathetic in itself.

    “: foolishly romantic, arrogant, profoundly sad and almost comic.”

    (Perhaps ‘sad’ has also changed its meaning since 1995?)

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