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TALLEST STORIES by Rhys Hughes

Eibonvale Press 2013

Real-Time Review continued from HERE

THE REVIEW CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS TO THIS PAGE BELOW

13 thoughts on “*

  1. 10* The Man Who Gargled With Gargoyle Juice
    “Maybe some antibiotics would do the trick?”
    I woke up this morning with a potentially debilitating Winter ailment (I really did). That’s why I am trying to enjoy as much of reading this book and doing its review before I fully succumb. When I phoned my elderly mother – who swears by antibiotics – earlier this morning (well, she could tell I was poorly by the sound of my voice), she said something like that quote! But now, in tune with all the streaming juices of these latter stories, I think this might be a better idea. Kill or cure!
    Actually, this is a nifty tale and it also helps me lubricate the Genies and Tallest Midgets in the stories above I liked less; they are simply required leitmotifs in the gestalt of this book and I of all people shouldn’t denigrate any one story for needing to cut the mustard as an ingredient in this book’s own huge frame of deliberated leitmotifs in its own gestalt.
    There is a reference to an archetypal Mother as “the opening to a human life”. Or as Gustave Courbet’s famous 19th century painting has it, the origin of the world of reality itself?

  2. 11* The Minotaur in Pamplona
    The first dancers swirled into the soup of notes,…”
    This is my favourite story in the book so far, and that’s saying something! Bull-Running with Rhystropes; in the sixties my favourite programme was Rawhide – and here we have both poignancy and strength … as well as rumbustiousness, like our reading of this whole book, at one moment having “drifted from dream to dream, and woke often, confused and blinking at the stars,” and the next enjoying “the communal fear and excitement, the idea that people were sharing sensations…” each reader with other readers, but, then, as in Lovecraft’s ‘The Outsider’, who am I really? It’s that sublime, it’s that silly sometimes, but overall I am both.

  3. tallest12
    12* Wood For The Trees
    13* The Violation
    “I’m fond of literary conceits but I do have my limits.”
    You don’t say! I do have my doubts, Rhys. One of these stories involves a marriage to a tree and the other has an affair with a paintbrush. Actually these two stories together are an ironicoprovocato – regarding foreign religion/mores, astrology, philosophical Aesthetics, and waking dreams, except with the latter these are not those dreams that one has when, put too early to bed, you devolve towards a sleep dreaming while still awake. Indeed, they are more dreams that are awake themselves while the dreamers are fully asleep! [I ought to mention at some stage in this review that there are not only obvious connections between all the stories but there are also more subtle connections — nuances, white noise or black static semantics, poetic assonances, graphological designs, phonetic bleeding, syntactical strategies — that you need your wits and concentration to enjoy.]

  4. While reading those two stories I discovered a second minor typo. Still a very good standard, unless there are any more yet to emerge! I always expect at least two such typos in any book with which I am involved, HOWEVER hard I try.
    It is shown here on page 288:

    tallest13
  5. 14* Oaths
    A nifty set of variations upon the theme of swear words.

    15* Chianti’s Inferno
    This is another Rhys Hughesian masterpiece. A marital fable that nagged at me as if I should know it already. It seems so archetypal as a fixture in world literature, I felt certain I had read it before whilst it came up fresh at every turn. I am convinced I have not read it before. It features a Rhys Hughesian protagonist’s emergence from a cloud via a well’s bucket from a land above the cloud, a Rhys Hughesian message in a bottle, inland ‘desert island’ and a full-circular ‘dying fall’. Perhaps one of my own ‘waking dreams’ was a synchronised shard of random truth and fiction as a premonition of this story via some mysterious retrocausal Astrological harmonics. As you can see, I am an idler, just like the protagonist – an idler with pretentious words – and I shall no doubt be sent down the well myself one day…

  6. 16* Gaspar Jangle’s Séance
    …to find a secret compartment cut into the pages; and nestled inside that alcove was a smaller copy of the same book; and inside that one was another; and then another; and yet another; and so on.”
    Akin to the earlier fold upon a fold upon a fold… And here a new revelation regarding the book’s theme of ‘devolution’, with a glimpse of the ultimate vicious circle as a ‘dying fall’ – here called ‘recursion’…with ‘curse’ in turn factored in along its audit trail? A whole book as an interconnecting concertina of textual devices waiting for the huge single Heath Robinson typo necessary to declinch the otherwise perfect ouija-circle of conceits so that the readers can escape its clutches? (I feel as if my Winter ailment, reported earlier today, has possibly made me at least slightly delirious…time for bed).

  7. Well, I actually feel a bit better today, thank you. And I have just read a couple more genuine Rhys Hughesian masterpieces, as I perceive them. Hope I’m not getting over-enthusiastic by seeing a masterpiece on every street corner…

    17* The Urban Freckle
    “He could imagine them now, reclining on balconies that had not yet been built,…”
    This is a John Howard-like, yet unique, architectural fantasy. The creation of a country’s pride by the architect’s vision of a new city (vision in more ways than one in its eventual ‘dying fall’). It reminded me of a version of ‘Parsifal’ I once watched where the singers moved around upon the giant contours of its composer’s face. The conceit of the cause of the urban freckles is mind-blowing…. Leading to another architectural fantasy…

    18* Corneropolis
    The regularisation – of this third and final set of tales – that I mentioned earlier has entailed a character in one story telling the next. This visionary architecturalised omniscience as a gestalt of the author or of the reader or both as a single gestalt, from the incidental re’fraction’ of light motives from the street corners’ perspectives, is a work of genius. A symbol for the Internet, too? “The web of glances…”

  8. crowd219* The Six Sentinels
    A beautifully crafted vision of a soft-cornered city of cushions called Plush, spiced with extrapolations, connections, jokes, defence systems commemorated by hard statues representing those who protected the city’s softness from all directions including up (cf ‘The West Pole’, earlier). Another Rhys Hughesian masterpiece? Sorry, I can’t argue with myself, despite feeling inclined to throw a wobbbly after having nearly finished reading this multi-edged ‘waking dream’ of a book in itself. The answer is a reluctant ‘yes’.

  9. 20* The Mirror in the Looking Glass
    “By this time, the mirror could already think for itself and was slowly coming to terms with its sudden awareness and the need to develop an identity.”
    And there is my personally offered illustrative image earlier in this review depicting, in its own way, the tussle involved with escaping a mirror to create one’s own identity. This book is full of author intrusions and considerations of truth and lie. Here there is some effective resolution to those conundrums not unconnected with the earlier ‘Time Tunnel Orchid’… And there then follows in the next story another resolution of this book’s other conundrums – as we head, I sense, to some clinching (or declinching?) of the book’s gestalt itself…

    21* Trombonhomie
    We have experienced before, in this book, the process of devolved revenge leading to the concept of ‘recursion’ together with the concept of ‘dying fall’ which, at heart, is an example of music terminology – and so, with this musical story, all those concepts become a beautiful whole.

  10. 22* Climbing the Tallest Tree in the World
    “!t started as a prank and ended as a plank.”
    Story twenty-two. That first sentence of it reminds me that this tallest story of all was first published in ‘Nemonymous Two’ in Twenty 02, with nemonymity also starting as a prank and ending as a plank. This is the first time I’ve read it since those heady days and it brought literal, as well as literary, tears to my eyes in the context of this whole book. It seems to work perfectly as the tallest totem that represents any context that surrounds it. I will not comment further. You simply need to read it in the same context once you have struggled out of your own mirror ready to climb the tallest tree yourself…

  11. But the trainee pilot who had crashed his glider into the tree” during the previous story was lost … or at least in LOST! He tells the next story which is one of two final stories as a double-headed coda for the whole book’s ‘dying fall’…

    23* Anton Arctic and the Conquest of the Scottish Pole
    as a variant of the earlier West Pole, leading to even more ageometrical climbing than was required by the Tallest Tree. In-media-res comes this telling passage: “…he had so few friends to remember him, none in fact, which maybe isn’t so bad if being remembered as unsuccessful is worse than never being noticed,…” which leads to us all being ‘lost’ ourselves: islanded in the bathos-tub of Rhys’ own ‘Taller Story’:-

    24* The Most Boring Story
    which, as a result of this story’s Rix heading-design, reminds me of the world’s first blank story that was ‘avant-garde’ly published in ‘Nemonymous Two’ (where ‘Climbing the Tallest Tree in the World’ also first appeared) but, more generously perhaps, it is nearer an anti-novel by Robbe-Grillet. Indeed it is not boring at all.

    We now reach the book’s self-proclaimed ‘FIN’ and, in line with all my real-time reviews, I may well later read anything beyond ‘FIN’ (such as an ‘Afterword’ etc.) but, in tune with my life-long interest in Wimsatt’s Intentional Fallacy, I shall not incorporate any apocryphanic thoughts of mine into the gestalt of the review itself.

    I think I have already shown the prevailing factors that make this a seriously great book, possibly Rhys Hughes’ greatest book so far. And the production qualities, story-heading images, designs etc by Eibonvale Press and David Rix do it proud.

    And thanks for making the whole universe a pub.

    FIN

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