Monday, December 28, 2009

The Smell of Telescopes

I was having a hard time getting into The Smell of Telescopes by Rhys Hughes, reading it downstairs just a couple of pages at a time. So I moved it upstairs and was able to enjoy it much more, plowing through it's 461 pages for longer stretches at a time and giving it the attention required to keep up.

I began the book believing it was a novel, but then thought it was a collection of short stories since each chapter read as a self-contained story. While the stories seemed to possibly be set in the same, strange, world, they were each about different characters. Then as I got further into the book characters started to reappear, sometimes with characters from other chapters and I realized that the book, novel if you will, is a collection of interconnected stories.

In a way this book is a microcosm of Rhys' full body of work where he states his goal is to write 1000 interconnected stories. I did note some connections in Telescopes to his earlier novel The Eyeliad. (By the way Rhys, I hope you are keeping an index of all these connections and not leaving it to readers to drive themselves crazy trying to map out.)

If you have not read any of Rhys' books yet (I've read six novels and collections so I'm starting to get a feel for him), they could best be described as fantasy. Not fantasy as in Sword and Scorcery, but more like Peter Pan. State an idea like, "if children live on this island they never grow old," make that the underlying logic of your story, and run wild with it. But the most enjoyable thing about reading Rhys, besides trying to keep up with the whimsical logic of the stories, is the joy of reading the writing itself. Here is an example:

"All I require" the blue dwarf cried, as he placed his hand on my knee, "are your trousers and your soul."

"Oh, little man," said I, "this is a foolish request! They are both too large for you. They would flap in the wind and set up a commotion. Who would want to be your friend then? You would have to shout above the noise: 'Blueberry pie at my house.' Even so no-one would come to visit. You would have to sit alone, absurdly attired.

"But let me tell you of the time I bartered both. The world was a younger place then; we did not value so highly such things as trousers and souls. The former were objects merely to be worn; the latter were baubles brought out over dinner to amuse guests. Neither had pride of place in the wardobe, as they do now."

And as you try to follow the logic of this chapter, I'll warn you now the most important part of that excerpt, as the book unfolds, is the blueberry pie! I don't think I've ever read anyone with an imagination quite like Rhys Hughes, and that's saying something. I'm looking forward to reading Stories from a Lost Anthology next.


CPC said...

Fascinating. I really need to pick up some of his stuff. Love the titles.

Weirdmonger said...

I have the three major Tartarus collections: Worming the Harpy, Smell of Telescopes and Stories from a Lost Anthology - and these are definitely a core of a paradoxo-logical form of brilliant, unsurpassable fantasy that, when the dice finally fall, only Rhys Hughes fiction fully represents.

Mike said...

I envy you your copy of Worming the Harpy, it's hard to find that book for under $300!