Rhys Hughes, Mister Gum. DogHorn, 2009. Pp. 108. ISBN 0955063191. £7.99.Reviewed by Nick Jackson
Mister Gum is silly. The more you read, the sillier it gets. Eventually it becomes so absurd that it threatens to become psychologically disturbing.
The book defies the usual critical methodology: do the characters and plot stand up to scrutiny? What are the themes and conceits of the work? How good is the writing? A serious approach doesn't work. It has no conceptual depths; it's basically an exploration of man's all-consuming obsession: his ejaculate. The characters are vehicles for humorous situations. The themes: tits, bums, cocks and come. The writing: awful puns, desperate metaphors, excruciating alliteration and puerile wordplay. One of the great achievements of the book is the sheer number and variety of synonyms Hughes manages to find for “sperm” or any other word associated with the act of regeneration. It made me laugh—often, and groan and retch (there's a particularly horrific scene involving a sombrero and a bank manager's anus).