Rhys Hughes' How Many Times? was published by Eibonvale Press in March 2018.
Information about Rhys Hughes:
Rhys Hughes was born in 1966. Tartarus Press published his first collection, Worming the Harpy, in 1995, and since that time he has published more than thirty other books. His fiction is generally fantastical and his output mainly consists of short stories, though he has published several novels. His work is frequently compared to that of Boris Vian, Flann O'Brien and R.A. Lafferty, but he cites his major influences as Italo Calvino and Donald Barthelme. His three most recent books are the collections Bone Idle in the Charnel House (Hippocampus Press), Orpheus on the Underground (Tartarus Press) and Brutal Pantomimes (Egaeus Press). Fascinated by paradoxes, he incorporates them into his fiction as entertainingly as he can. Sangria in the Sangraal was inspired by a real visit to the town of Albarracín in the year 2007.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about How Many Times?:
Rhys Hughes has never been a stranger to experimental fiction and unusual ways of constructing stories, and this mini-collection gathers some of his most far-reaching examples, placed squarely in the world of OuLiPo writing. Short for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle or the workshop of potential literature, OuLiPo is a grouping of authors who fashion works based on constrained writing techniques - writing that follows rigorous and extremely precise rules concerning structure and layout etc. And here, we encounter works based on rigid numerical constraints, works in the form of grids that can be read in any direction, and a "logico-erotic tale in which the permutations of the sexual acts are based on the workings of logic gates."
The intricacy of construction within these carefully defined restraints is stunning but the resulting literary world is still very much the author’s own, filled with his characteristic sense of humour, the absurd and the fantastical.
This is a slim but large-format book to give space for all the complex layouts, grids, structures etc. that make up these stories.
REVIEW: HOW MANY TIMES? BY RHYS HUGHES
Rhys Hughes' How Many Times? is one of the most experimental and most unusual books I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It's an intricately constructed mini-collection that is stunningly original and captivating.
In this book, Rhys Hughes explores the boundaries of literary fiction and fantastical fiction by using various writing techniques to write original fiction that is bound by different kind of rules than normal fiction. He uses OuLiPo writing, mathematics and the workings of logic gates as tools to create experimental fiction.
As many speculative fiction and literary fiction readers are aware of, experimental fiction has become scarce and rare. Nowadays, only a handful of authors dare to experiment with fiction, which is a shame, because experimental fiction is at its best extremely compelling and rewarding, not to mention unique. This book is one of the finest examples of this kind of fiction I've seen in ages, because it showcases the potential of experimental fiction.
OuLiPo writing (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) is one of the forms of experimental writing that intrigues me a lot. It is a series of methods usually based on mathematical constraints. Rhys Hughes seems to have mastered this writing style, because his OuLiPo writing is inventive and stylistic with just the right amount of the absurd and the fantastical.
The first text, which is called (14 + 24 + 34 + 44 + 54) + 64 + 74, is an interesting piece of fiction, because it can be read as three linked stories or as a series of fragments. In this text, the author uses a strict mathetimatical way of writing the story and stays true to it. The text starts with simply one word, but grows into a much larger whole: The 1x1x1x1 piece consists of one section that has one paragraph containing only one sentence formed with one word. The 7x7x7x7 piece is a lot bigger piece and has seven sections that consist of seven paragraphs that contain seven sentences, each of which is formed with seven words.
"The Five Pillars of Flimflam" is a story about a man who needs to escape from work and find a better life. It's a fascinating and charmingly strange take on a corporate horror genre, because it tells of how the boss follows the man to an island and tries to kill him.
"Half a Dozen of the Other" is an excellent story with memorable scenes. The scenes telling of missionaries boiling in the pot and the baby being forced to earn his keep and getting paid in bottled milk had a perfect touch of absurdism, whimsiness and cleverness to them. I was impressed by this story and liked the way the author wrote about the characters and their lives.
"Seven Sulky Sides for Seven Bulky Brooders" tells of seven different kind of brooders (Mun, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat and Sun) and chess. The seven sections that form this story are captivating and imaginative.
The grid structure in "I Entered the Forest at Midnight", "Boiling the Kettle" and "The Careful Plottings of My Enamoured Heart" is intriguing, because the stories can be read in any direction. These stories are followed by the Vestigial Appendix, which is intended for readers who want to read the microfictions in a more conventional format.
The story "Boolean Amours" is simply brilliant in its attempt at combining logic and eroticism. In this story, the precise workings of the logic gates determine what happens. Those who are familiar with Boolean algebra will find this story exhilarating and wonderfully original (I think that this story will especially appeal to IT people, mathematicians and engineers). One might easily think that this story simply can't work due to eroticism being different from logic gates, but it works splendidly.
In "Boolean Amours", the events take place in the Boolean monastery. This story tells of how logic gates determine what happens to the characters, their lovemaking and their orgasms in a fascinatingly original way.
Because I enjoy experimental fiction, I was taken by this mini-collection's originality and the author's precise yet exotic approach to experimental fiction. I find the author's way of experimenting with fiction deeply rewarding, because he succeeds in what he tries to do and - as a result - offers his readers mesmerising fiction. He has the needed discipline and commitment to make this kind of fiction work.
The stories in this mini-collection demonstrate that fiction can be a highly original art form when used in a creative way. One can do wonders with a bit of experimentation. When imagination meets originality, the results can - as this collection proves - be amazing and very rewarding.
Rhys Hughes' How Many Times? is something different and unique. It can be recommended to readers who are intrigued by experimental fiction and are interested in exploring what kind of literary pleasures await those who dare to venture beyond their comfort zones in search of originality. It's a highly unique reading experience that rewards its readers with fascinating fiction.