Rhys Hughes' Tallest Stories was published by Eibonvale Press in March 2013.
Information about the author:
Rhys Hughes was born in 1966 and began writing fiction from a young age. None of his early efforts saw print, mainly because he never submitted them anywhere or even showed them to anyone else. Those stories have all been lost.
Eventually he began sending his work to editors. His first published story was called 'An Ideal Vocation' and it appeared in an obscure anthology in 1992. Encouraged by this "success", he then proceeded to bombard the British small-press with hundreds of eccentric tales for almost two decades. His first book, the now almost legendary Worming the Harpy, was published by Tartarus Press in 1995. He has published many volumes since then, chiefly collections of short-stories but also a few novels, in several languages.
He considers his three best and most "Hughesian" books to be The Smell of Telescopes, The Truth Spinner and (of course) Tallest Stories. The latter took 15 years to put together and is a self-contained story-cycle that is also a microcosmic version of the grand story-cycle that will eventually feature all his lifetime's fiction, each story linked forwards, backwards and sideways to other stories in the cycle.
When not writing or reading, he indulges his passions for mountaineering, music, philosophy and making things that only sometimes work.
Click here to visit his blog.
Information about Tallest Stories:
Welcome to The Tallest Story, the second most grandiose pub in the world – always at least one narrow alley and three imaginary corners away from the Cardiff waterfront – a pub that lies in another dimension, somewhere between dawn and sunrise and adjacent to both infinity and eternity – where the floor is not made out of toenails, but out of all the words that are spoken for no good reason. A place where the only currency that matters is stories...
If every tale told in a tavern is a tall story, then what happens when the entire universe becomes a tavern? It means that every story ever told is tall and therefore untrue, and this includes the true tales. They are all lies. But a lie is a concept only possible because it can be contrasted with truth: without its opposite concept it makes no sense at all. This implies one of two unlikely things, (a) the universe is not really a tavern, (b) there are other universes beyond this one where true stories exist. If you ever learn which is the correct answer to this riddle please let me know.
60 linked stories, 60 illustrations, 18 years in the making - this is probably Rhys Hughes' most important book to date.
A REVIEW OF RHYS HUGHES' TALLEST STORIES
Tallest Stories is one of the best and most entertaining reading experiences I've ever had. Tallest Stories is a masterpiece of storytelling, because it contains 60 beautifully written interlinking stories that create an intriguing book. It also contains 60 black and white drawings by David Rix, who has also created the cover art.
Tallest Stories contains the following three sections and stories:
1. Taller Stories:
The Wonderful Words
Learning to Fly
Learning to Fall
The Queen of Jazz
Anna and the Dragon
The Rake and the Fool
The Peat Fire
Knight on a Bear Mountain
Something About a Demon
The Furious Walnuts
The Illustrated Student
The Story with a Clever Title
The Silver Necks
Never Hug an Aadvark
2. More Taller Stories:
In the Margins
The Wooden Salesman
Two Fat Men in a Very Thin Country
The Man Who Threw His Voice
The Sealed Room
The Hole Truth: A Lie
The Time Tunnel Orchid
The Golden Fleas
The West Pole
Islands in the Bathtub
Billion World Boat
The Smutty Tamarinds
A Curry in Camelot
3. Last Taller Stories:
The Surface Area of a Ghost's Wanderings
Degrees of Separation
The Folded Page
Milk and Ladders
The Juice of Days
The Kissable Climes
But It Pours
The Tallest Midget
The Man Who Gargled with Gargoyle Juice
The Minotaur in Pamplona
Wood for the Trees
Gaspar Jangle's Séance
The Urban Freckle
The Six Sentinels
The Mirror in the Looking Glass
Climbing the Tallest Tree in the World
Anton Arctic and the Conquest of the Scottish Pole
The Most Boring Story
When I began to read Tallest Stories, I didn't know exactly what kind of a book it would be, but I thought it might be a great book, because I liked Rhys Hughes' short story in the Eibonvale Press' Blind Swimmer anthology. Tallest Stories turned out to be a splendid and well written short story collection about a bit different kind of a pub and its visitors.
The Tall Story is a strange and interesting pub, because it exists in another dimension near Cardiff's Docks on Raconteur Road. The landlord of the pub is Hywel Price. The accepted currency is stories, so there are plenty of them, because the visitors have all kinds of stories. What makes Hywel's pub a unique place is that it's just as weird as the stories that are told inside it.
I think it's interesting that Rhys Hughes has decided to write this kind of a collection, because it works brilliantly from start to finish. He has created a well written and fascinating story cycle in which all the stories are connected to each other in small, but significant ways. I have to admit that it's amazing how well the author manages to bring all the elements together in an entertaining way.
Rhys Hughes' story cycle is both loose and tight, and the author never lets the reader loose interest in the stories. The stories in this collection are short, but they're intriguing stories in which almost anything can - and will - happen.
The cast of characters is diverse, because the visitors are different from each other and each of them has their own story. The readers will have a chance to read about a man who think he's a ghost, different kind of clairvoyants, etc. I have to mention that the clairvoyants, Madame Ligeia and Madame Berenice, are interesting persons, because one can only see the future and the other the past. This adds a nice touch of strangeness to the stories. There are also vampires, ghosts, dragons, goblins etc in these stories.
I have to mention that the time tunnel orchid was a nice invention. I've always been interested in botany and plants, so it was nice to read about this fascinatingly weird and unique orchid species. I'm sure that other readers who are interested in botany will be thrilled to read about it.
The author has created a nice atmosphere in this book. He writes nicely about the history of the pub, its visitors and Hywel (I was impressed by how easily the author wrote about Hywel and his pub). I think it's best not to reveal too much about Hywel and the pub, but I'll mention that reading about Hywel and his pub is very interesting and rewarding.
What makes these stories so interesting is that they're told in a fascinating and exaggerating way. They're tall and partly unbelievable stories, so there's quite a lot of imagination in them. Some of these stories are very imaginative and as the reader keeps on reading more of them, he/she notices that new stories are even more imaginative than the previous stories. This is one of the reasons why this collection is so entertaining.
In my opinion Rhys Hughes has a good sense of humour, because some of these stories are very funny. The author has infused the stories with absurdism and clever humour, but he's also able to write a bit darker humour. What makes his humour interesting is that he explores philosophical things with it in a surprisingly fluent way (Rhys Hughes is one of the few authors who can write comical phisosophical stories, which can almost be called fables).
Rhys Hughes has written several books, but Tallest Stories is said to be his most important book so far. I'm not very familiar with Rhys Hughes' stories, so I'm not an expert on his stories, but I have to admit that I agree with this statement, because where else can you find fantasy, humour and philosophy in this kind of a package - this is a unique and well written short story collection, which offers all these elements in an entertaining format.
The author mentions the following books and collections in his afterword: Lord Dunsany's Jorkens books/collections, Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart and L. Srague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's Tales from Gavagan's Bar. These books are well known examples of similar kind of books. In my opinion Tallest Stories is a fine addition to these "pub and club books", because it feels almost like a tribute to them.
These stories reminded me a bit of the adventures of Baron Münchhausen (aka Baron Munchausen), because they were also tall stories. I think it's possible that several readers will think of Baron Münchhausen when they read these stories. I'm not sure if the author has used the adventures of Baron Münchhausen as an inspiration for this book, but it's possible.
I sincerely hope that Rhys Hughes keeps on writing more stories in a similar fashion, because these stories are wonderful entertainment. I intend to read more stories from this author in the near future, because I enjoyed these stories.
If you're looking for a fresh and entertaining fantasy short story collection, Tallest Stories may be just what you're looking for. Tallest Stories is a fantastic and highly enjoyable short story collection, which can be recommended for speculative fiction readers who enjoy light and humorous stories. I think that this collection will also be of interest to readers of mainstream fiction, because it's a fast read that makes its readers turn the pages to see what happens in the next story.