Thursday, March 18, 2010

Journeys Beyond Advice

I've been so busy lately I've had almost no time for blogging. I finished two books last week and this is my first chance to talk about them, and I only have time for one. Maybe I'll get to the other one tonight.

One of the keys to enjoying fiction is the "willing suspension of disbelief," and Rhys Hughes is its poster child.

Journeys Beyond Advice is, fittingly, a collection of stories about people going on journeys. Bad ideas all of them. If you found yourself in the any of the protagonists' shoes, you'd take them off and run like hell in the other direction.

In almost all these stories, and much of Rhys' work, you read them as a spectator. You don't identify with the character and see the story through their eyes, or if you do, you don't for long. There is no agonizing over why the character made a decision you would not have made, because you would have made the decision not to be in the story in the first place!

One of these days maybe I'll come up with another word or phrase to describe Rhys' writing, but for now I have to stick with surreal. Here are a few highlights from the collection:

One of my favorite stories is the longest in the book, "The World Beyond the Stairwell." It is an epistolary story made up of journal entries, letters, a radio interview and even a manuscript outline sent to a publisher. Somewhat uncharacteristically it starts out like a "normal"--perhaps a little gothic--story. A man visits his friend's home out in the country, the friend isn't there but has left him a simple task; climb a stairway and block the door at the top. Of course the stairway is longer than he can imagine, longer than you can image. No really, even longer than that. And things happen on the stairway to make him change his quest and well, it doesn't really read like a "normal" story anymore.

"The Swine Taster," was a hoot, but no thank you, I don't think I'll try the Voluntary Ape Pie.

"The Semi-Precious Isle," has a couple of meta-fictional twists in it, I don't want to say more and give anything away.

"The Herb Garden of Earthly Delights," is one of several stories by Rhys I've read that make me think he's probably backpacked across Europe a few times. But that's the middle of the story, the really cool parts are the beginning and the end.

"The Singularity Spectres," is what I consider to be a typical Rhys Hughes story. A character in an impossible situation, believing ridiculous premises, taking an unfathomable journey. Full of humor, surprises, double crosses. Lots of fun, but don't take my word for it, you can read it here. Just click on the "Download this ebook" pdf link.

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