The Rhymer: an HeredysseyDouglas Thompson
The Rhymer, an Heredyssey defies classification in any one literary genre. A satire on contemporary society, particularly the art world, it is also a comic-poetic meditation on the nature of life, death and morality.
A mysterious tramp wanders from town to town, taking a new name and identity from whoever he encounters first. Apparently amnesiac or even brain-damaged, Nadith Learmot nonetheless has other means to access the past and perhaps even the future: upon his chest a dial, down his sleeves wires that he can connect to the walls of old buildings from which he believes he can read their ghosts like imprints on tape. Haunting him constantly is the resemblance he apparently bears to his supposed brother, a successful artist called Zenir. Setting out to pursue Zenir and denounce or blackmail him out of spite, in his travels around the satellite towns and suburbs surrounding a city called Urbis, Nadith finds he is always two steps behind a figure as enigmatic and polyfaceted as himself. But through second hand snippets of news he increasingly learns of how his brother’s fortunes are waning, while his own, to his surprise, are on the rise. Along the way, he encounters unexpected clues to his own true identity, how he came to lose his memory and acquire his strange ‘contraption’. When Nadith finally catches up with Zenir, what will they make of each other?
Told entirely in the first person in a rhythmic stream of lyricism, Nadith’s story reads like Shakespeare on acid, leaving the reader to guess at what truth lies behind his madness. Is Nadith a mental health patient or a conman? – or as he himself comes to believe, the reincarnation of the thirteenth century Scottish seer True Thomas The Rhymer, a man who never lied nor died but disappeared one day to return to the realm of the faeries who had first given him his clairvoyant gifts?
Rachel Kendall, writer and Editor of Sein und Werden, has penned an introduction in which she says: “Obviously Thompson is a risk-taker, a dare-devil member of the literati, to propose such a feat as this. Should the measurements be out of sync, the angles a bit skewed or the trajectory off course, this could have been disastrous. But Thompson’s risks are calculated. He is a master craftsman, pulling out all the stops with exceptional timing (comic and otherwise).”
Rhys Hughes, renowned Welsh writer and essayist said: “The oldest and best stories in the world were told rhythmically, lyrically, with the music of beauty, terror, loss and longing. It’s a form that has fallen somewhat into disuse in recent decades, and that’s a shame. But Douglas Thompson, a new writer of immense promise, is helping to find this wondrous method again, to ensure that the newest and best stories are also told rhythmically, lyrically, with the music of beauty, terror, loss and longing, and, in The Rhymer, to additionally fuse the form with modern and unique concepts, to create an effect that is richly complex but simply stupendous.”
The Rhymer also boasts a cover and interior illustrations designed by Alison Buck.
Douglas Thompson’s short stories have appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, most recently Albedo One, Ambit, Postscripts, and New Writing Scotland. He won the Grolsch/Herald Question of Style Award in 1989 and second prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition in 2007. His first book, Ultrameta, was published by Eibonvale Press in August 2009, nominated for the Edge Hill Prize, and shortlisted for the BFS Best Newcomer Award, and since then he has published four subsequent novels, Sylvow (Eibonvale, 2010), Apoidea (The Exaggerated Press, 2011), Mechagnosis (Dog Horn, 2012), Entanglement (Elsewhen Press, 2012) and has two forthcoming in 2014, The Brahan Seer and Volwys, from Acair Publishing and Dog Horn respectively. The Rhymer is his eighth novel.