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Darker Fables

Writing and reviews. Adventures, maybe? Exciting, definitely.

Ovine

Skittish, she flees
at the first tremble of thunder,
the first flashing of eyes,
long gone before teeth are bared.

But it is not for a dog to complain
over what needs chasing
just to find the way home.

White tufts blowing in the bracken
and two-toed prints show
where she was, before
the storm was so fierce.

The grass is glistening in the rain,
just as sweet as sugarsnap peas,
a new green cemetery of names
that are not yet forgiven.

There’s a bleating, somewhere
in these echoing hills,
like a child in dark wilderness,
but the wind snatches all away.

© Deanna Scutt, 2018

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Paris in Colour

It’s been so long since I last wrote a personal blog post that it seems a bit insincere to return to this journal format, but this is an important anniversary, or it was, two months and ten days ago, which is when I reached the one year mark since arriving in Paris, and started to consider the awful truth that soon I will be leaving.

In just a few short weeks I will be busy with whatever comes next, so if there’s an appropriate time for reflections, I guess it must be now.

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My expectations of this experience were monstrous in scope, and orbited a single, dangerous idea: that I needed to come away from this someone new, quite distinct from my former self. It was, I admit, not only a depressing aim, but an odd one, since Paris is not, in my opinion, a city of any change.

After centuries of relentless artistic analysis, Paris is as Paris was, and as Paris will be. To step onto the metro is to breathe stale air that has washed over a thousand other people, and to be any kind of artist here is not to founder in uncharted waters, but to drink the rich history of the many who went before.

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I have not changed. At least not in the ultimate, irrevocable fashion my immature self hoped. Instead of a sudden metamorphosis, I think I instead underwent something closer to a personal evolution. All there is of me is all there was of me, but I wield myself with a better knowledge of my own nature, gained from my experiences.

It is tempting, of course, to bleat out every story I have lived, to pen down every struggle and success so that I can show how much it was all worth, but I understand better now that all stories have a time when it is best for them to be told, and that not all stories survive being written.

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Life has chapters, and my time in Paris has been a chapter in mine. In a month and a half I shall turn to a new blank page, only it will not be quite blank, because it will be thin enough to show the shadows of old letters on the page behind. There are no fresh starts, but I no longer think I need one. As I discovered when I came to Paris, whatever you leave behind does not leave you, but follows on the wind.

So when I go, as I must, this will not be so much the past, as a part of the present in which I am.

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I promise I am winding up to a point, which is that I have come to the conclusion that rebirth is a lie. Going somewhere new will not make you new. It will, however, give you the space to lay down some roots that reach further than before.

Words are a petty medium, says the woman who left her country to write, but I don’t think I need to write every detail. I need only to say that for so many, many reasons, this has been the best year of my life.

Best Books: Spring/Summer 2018

I’m aiming to hit 100 books, so I’ve been reading heavily this year. Here are my highlights so far.

1. Sandra Gulland’s Josephine Bonaparte trilogy:
Dramatic, sweeping, emotional, and all-in-all a thoroughly engaging portrait of an extraordinary woman, who lived in an extraordinary time. First novel review here.

2. Kij Johnson’s The Fox Woman:
A+ character development, evocative writing, and shape-shifting foxes. Reviewed here.

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3. Camille Griep’s New Charity Blues:
A book unlike a lot of books. Ultra-subtle futuristic retelling of The Iliad, with elemental magic. Clever, with an interesting, original concept. Pleasant surprise.

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4. Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest:
Aliens, war, suffering. Detestable villain. One of the author’s best works, in my opinion.

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Working Girl (1988)

5. H.G. Wells’ The Sea Lady:
Badass mermaid versus Victorian society. An unexpectedly deep gem, and available for free download at Project Gutenburg. I still can’t fathom why this story is so unknown.

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Peter Pan (1953)

6. Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road:
A great deal less magical or lavish than anything else on this list, but the only book I have ever read which has led me to sympathy for lying snobs and cheaters.

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The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017)

7. Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens:
Fairytales, fairytales, fairytales are my favourite ever thing, especially the dark ones. Rapunzel meets Elizabeth Báthory.

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Hoping to get some more in-depth reviews done, but it’s dissertation season, so I make no promises, save that I’ll do another favourites for autumn/winter. Suggested reading always welcomed!

Mayfly

I could call it a hex
the words that pulled you
out and away downstream.

And the winds rolling in
say storms would have come erelong,
to strip the ground as bare as a mirror.

Labyrinthine, is the origami
you make of yourself,
folded nine ways from the truth,
those scissors driving home.

But I am sorry after all this,
and sorry for that as well,
as my heart quickens onwards
and I swim the summer night.

We were flowers, perhaps,
but not ones with particular meaning.

So go, as I go,
and let’s not speak again of love or life
or death. I remember so much opinion,
and my patience is not what it was.

Too sharp, too green,
those fruits we picked.
They left my teeth on edge.

© Deanna Scutt, 2018

Grey Green

My blood was once
a stream of cement,
and I remain well-acquainted
with bone wall prisons.

My breath,
and the hairs on my hands
say the past is less
than a lifetime ago.

Ravens and doves,
living high in my towers,
were a raucous cawing that I never
released.

Not until the waters came,
and left me barefoot
in the rags of my fine gowns.

Now here,
these petty salt marshes
leave me more than the
proverbial beggar.

No more slaving
or sweet dreams.

© Deanna Scutt, 2018

Severance

It’s clear
that if I could,
I would cut my body
into pieces, and file
those pieces
into separate plastic bags.

Most I would cast away
into all the different oceans.

I might keep my eyes,
the shape of my hands,
the way a line runs
down my breastbone,
but these things,
more than anything,
are delicate.

Upon consideration it’s
all more corruption,
unworthy of anyone’s interest.

I love my father’s cheekbones,
but not when I seek
a vampire’s absence.

Ways to look into
dark, glass water,
and be, but not be,
to slip away unseen.

© Deanna Scutt, 2018

Ave

Ah, this soft-skinned child
let wind blow through her.

No more hiding in the roots
of shivering blossom trees.

If I was what I was
then I carry my regrets,
and shed them as feathers
for a warmer, brighter coat.

These waters, soft and saline,
have ravaged my throat,
not like bleach but a scream
that seeped up through my skin.

If you are singing then I hear you,
if not I imagine
and unmake
the hollow structure of my bones.

© Deanna Scutt, 2018

Review: Sandra Gulland’s ‘Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe’

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Good Lord, this should have been posted sooner, but I have been in that nightmarish state of wanting to write but having no willpower to get tappity at the keyboard for anything besides assignments for weeks. 

But I’m back, and following on from Joséphine B., I dove straight into this trilogy’s next installment, which was solid. Tales of Passion does not veer from the established style of its predecessor, and offers little by way of surprise, but the strengths of the first novel are carried through, with Joséphine (the name Rose is sacrificed upon marriage to Bonaparte) remaining a compelling protagonist witness to the turmoils of a fascinating era.

Fame was the last thing I’d expected from marriage to Bonaparte. Strange, intense little Napoléon, the ill-mannered Corsican – a hero now, the Liberator of Italy. The man to whom kings bowed.

Whereas Joséphine B. follows a girl through adolescence and well into her adult life, Tales of Passion covers the much shorter period of time between Joséphine’s marriage to Napoleon and her ascension to the French throne.

The narrative is much more complicated, with a great deal more intrigue and political drama playing out around our protagonist, and embroiling her in its chaos.

This is not always a good thing, since Gulland’s writing often lacks the dexterity to handle these numerous intricate events. In places the novel has a glossing quality which makes me wonder why the the editor did not license an extra hundred pages.

“I told you, this will be bloodless.”

“There are other ways to ruin a man.”

That being said, however, Joséphine is an older woman in this text, and entering a phase of life in which age becomes a concern, which I found engrossing. I am so accustomed to historical novels which focus on women during their early years that it was refreshing to read about a woman slipping past childbearing, an era of womanhood which most novels, with their focus on young, developing protagonists, never explore.

Also, though there is some depth missing when it comes to the politics, this novel is effective in digging deep into its characters’ emotions. I found it interesting to see the late summer of someone’s life as the era in which romance enters. The problematic, passionate and powerful relationship between Joséphine and Napoleon is one of this novel’s greatest strengths, especially impressive since much of it is long distance during this installment.

I won’t go so far as to say I loved this novel – I do think it is the weakest of the trilogy – but as an essential part of a thoroughly engaging series, there is little I can truly fault.

Now, alone in my boudoir, I look through the thick file, the names of so many thousands of men and women, and I am overwhelmed. Can I do this? I pray for strength.

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I am not the praying type,
but I throw my head down,
for summons, for spirits,
for feu sacré.

City of surrealists, yet I
embraced pre-assigned stories,
those Grimm fairy tales
about young writers in Paris.

If being is close to believing,
then I had nothing left to learn,
only so many words,
overflowing,
there but stripped of meaning.

This slow-moving river
has pulled me
deeper into sand than water,
but still I spent summer dancing,
romanced, though I slept alone.

Now we are waiting for spring,
water around our ankles,
and I think in another city
this would still be a song
for the times, different
than the days before.

© Deanna Scutt, 2018

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