This compendium reads more like a writer’s sketchbook or workbook than a publishable portfolio. There is no central focus or thematic organization to this collection. The prose pieces are admirable by themselves, and they would create a charming—or chilling—world if assembled with more reason. The major flaw lies in the alternating poems that distract from any enjoyable flow.
Presented in some peculiar typesetting, the prose pieces are parables wherein characters such as Fame, Fortune, Destiny, Famine, or Death discourse with considerable humor and struggle with moribund morals. Hutchings’ invented persons and places, such as the Mayajat, Telelee, or the Owls of Yib, smack of Douglas Adams’ wit and result in Rod Serling’s thaumaturgy.
Humor within these pieces runs a gamut from risible malaprops to slangy puns to outright groaners. Simple jokes can lie in converting names (H.P.) Lovecraft to Hatecraft, or punishing Death with a life sentence, or detailing altruistic Sir Benjamin Envolent on the subject of benevolence. Footnotes are mere devices to insert additional or extended punnery. Humor can be tenuous and most comedy applied here reeks of locker-room chortles rather than consistent and polished routine.
The verse constructions interrupting the prose waft more as doggerel than Dionysian craft. They seem student attempts and imitation than studied craft. The meters are inconsistent although considerable attention had been given to end-rhyme patterns. Still, the poetry is more loony than lyrical.
Nevertheless and if the above-articulated points are ignored, Hutchings’ offerings could rise beyond being a mere pastiche of prosody. For the next two months, read one item while strumming a lute and pretend you are Scheherazade.