Monday, December 27, 2021

Page 69: The Reeking Hegs

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....

In this installment of Page 69, 
we put Pete Keaveny's The Reeking Hegs to the test.  

For what you are about to read, may Bog make you truly thankful:

 Page 69 forms part of Canto 4 of The Reeking Hegs. Canto 4 deals, for the most part, with the doings of the Pujguk family; an Inuit/Eskimo clan whose stationery business, set up by Ugpujguk the elder, had hit the big time on being commissioned by autocrat Solid King Solid Fume III to produce a map of the dreaded Hegs. Some strange when not horrific events take place in that regard, but on page 69 we witness the wondrous transformation of Vincenta, the lover of proto-democrat Atiqtalik, into a volcano. Back in Solid Fume's capital city of Ugzcyk the eruption is taken as a sign from on high by rival religious sects. As they settle their dogmatic differences in the time honored fashion Vincenta's end is complete.


What is The Reeking Hegs about?

 Part hardboiled mystery, part arctic adventure, part satire and totally a high celebration of just how many contortions of  a mere 26 symbols are possible while maintaining a narrative that will delight the adventurous reader while arousing nought but dismay among those accustomed to a more traditional style of fiction.

The Reeking Hegs is a sort of mangled modern-age Odyssey. There are no gods encountered along the way but many of the leading characters have the hint of the mythical about them. The narrator – private dick Nick Seighton -  is sent forth to search for The Hegs and so he does. He is not the first to have done so. Along the ways he meets several who have also attempted to unravel the horror of The Hegs with results that are always entertaining if somewhat grotesque.

The Reeking Hegs is about making the reader the active protagonist rather than the passive receiver of the ready-made omniscient author's dictates with regard to who to what to whom and why. The Reeking Hegs is about making you laugh out loud, making you recoil and cringe, boldly challenging each and every reader to venture into places few if any have ever been before.


 Does P69 give readers an accurate sense...?

 It does; but no more than would P208 or any other page. It is in alignment with the book's overall themes in that the events depicted are purely fictional in a way that most other fictions are not – the plausibility of motive or action or setting are secondary. Perhaps it is in some sense comparable to, say, Lewis Carol's 'The Snark' or Monty Python's anarchic, delirious comedy. It also provides a taste of the plasticity of language employed as the medium selected to convey the reader into the world of The Hegs, and this wordplay is a constant theme throughout the book. This, and not the usual dictates of grammatical correctness and linear narrative are the the most important in terms of theme.



In distant Ugzcyk burghers came out of their shacks to die before the glowering horizon upon which a line such as ants make appeared visible to their straining weepy peepers. The Krabstick cell of the Brothers of the Black Eyed Nipple, replete in their black eyed nipple masks and regalia, convinced that Vincenta’s end heralded the dawn of a new and even fouler age, prepared to scale its heights and utter the correct incantations with appropriate gestures that would ensure a propitious reaction that Vincenta would do well to endure. They gathered their sop buckets and everlasting scorpions and proceeded in a line such as ants make through time towards the disaster. Halfway up they ran into a contingent of the heretical Moluscular Evangelists heading in the same direction and struck at them with their pruning knives.

“My pestilence! Your pestilences! Beat the crows!” cried Vincenta, as if sensing the battle, remote from her own immediate predicament. These cries rippled through the sulphurous atmosphere, distorted in their ashen passage so that, to the Brothers of the Black Eyed Nipple they sounded like “Eat at Joe’s!” and were taken as an exhortation to sacrifice from Boggon High. Their hour was nigh! It was a mighty portent. They drilled a fishing hole and waited. Thus they ended their days in a rain of pumice boulders and burning faggots which fell like hellish caricatures of a goblin snow-crusted Hansel and Gretel fantasy.

Vincenta struggled, but still redemption did not come. She had been given strange powers. Burning icicles protruded from her forehead like the very horns of Ugpujguk the Elder himself.


Pete Peru was born mid 20th Century in a small town in England. He left school at age 16 and worked as the whim took him: farm laborer: assembly line operative; rescue service radio operator; postman; civil engineering (shit shoveling); milkman; bus driver; taxi driver. He spent a year in Art College. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp's example he abandoned art school. Instead he wrote stories or songs or poems set to music in his free time. He took a B.A. at the University of Portsmouth in Latin American Studies, and spent 18 months traveling alone in South America. For his M.A. he researched the psychology of art with special reference to the Moche culture of Peru. He met Lord Tupelo Ca. 1987 and it was Tupelo who coined the name Pete Peru. Soon after meeting they began experimenting with spontaneous writing; an experiment which blossomed into The Reeking Hegs. Progress on the manuscript was slowed by Pete's decision to move to Spain in 1989. They posted chunks of text to each other in the old-fashioned way – envelopes, postage stamps etc. The Reeking Hegs was finally published in 2020. Pete Peru still lives near Barcelona. He is very happily retired, writing a new novel and playing guitar in a punk band.

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