18 thoughts on “Rupetta – N.A. Sulway

  1. I have this afternoon just finished, not a full-scale dreamcatcher review, but a gradual series of real-time notes (here) upon my reading of ‘The Bone Clocks’ by David Mitchell. I have now only so far read the Foreword of this Sulway novel just purchased from the publisher, and I am already entranced, but I feel a similar approach would be appropriate, a journey in slow stages through time – like that of the ‘creation’ of Holly in the Mitchell novel, I wonder? I sense the other readers of Sulway in their cabins around me as our ship sets sail…

  2. THE MIRACLE OF CONSCIOUSNESS: Languedoc: November 11th, 1619
    “…that the sun and moon of her wider world, and the circulation of her blood and breath, were organic clocks marking out the passage of her life.”
    I think I already know that I have, with my starting this novel today, hit upon an astonishing work of literature. I have just been held spellbound for, say, half an hour, with 17 pages of what I can only call a feminine Cyborg Proust emerging, in a form of servanted Combray, as a consciousness to her maker, a maker equally feminine and straining between death and life, by giving birth, fleshly, too. A sheer straining toward the Null Immortalis itself. A Pinnocchio Frankenstein? But all that may give the wrong impression. She (Rupetta) addresses someone called Henri… I must not read this book quickly, but simply let it dwell, take its own time with me.

  3. Henri’s Story: Part One
    “…hoping for synchronicity. Sometimes, she said, demonstrating while she spoke, she opened the references pages at the end of a book she had liked and closed her eyes, dropped a finger onto the page and went searching for whatever it had landed on. Steeplechase reading, she called it.”
    I simply couldn’t resist reading more of the book this evening. And I have been further enticed by that sense of real-time dreamcatching book reviews, as I have done since 2008, containing ‘the efficacy of luck” as well as ‘an ideology of coincidence’. A sense of ambitious historianism for our Henri heroine and its learned disciplines or penitent disciples. Perfect expression, for me, of an ungraspable as well as a practical critiquing, plus a wonderful sense of the tiered studious library, Peakean and carrel-ful stacks, their down as well as the haunting vista from their up, the gazing below upon someone I might grow to love, as I sense the approach of another sensibility that I recognise as a Sapphic (here Rupettan) ‘Warriors of Love’ or similar future history, as our Henri heroine here – paralleling (later converging with?) the Rupetta thread in the previous section – watches others fussing around with poultices and teas. All steeped somehow with creatures that have real as well as clockwork parts. Absolutely gorgeous material, just up my personal literary street. Must slow down, though, and savour, sip a retrocausal Proustian infusion. Must shorten my notes, too, and not despoil the plot.

  4. THE MIRACLE OF SILENCE: Languedoc: 1726 – 1826
    Henri’s Story: Part Two

    “However sad it is when something dies, it is sadder still when it should and doesn’t.”
    I am beginning satisfyingly to absorb these two accreting channels of narrative, how they interconnect, as if one depends on the other for symbiotic Wynding, a Religion of some form that passes through various stages of Miracle or Epiphany, to be kept wound up like the clockwork bird that links the two channels, to be kept winding along with the text’s musically meticulous detail of nature and emotion plus a philosophy of history (involving competing heretics and penitents, amid a Rupettan dynasty of time), a history that is not dry but lives and breathes on the page with an equalising yearning for sprung death and life – and a Proustian unrequited love, whereby Henri’s long-term pre-vision of her own she-on-she with Miri culminates in their own daughter? By gynogenesis as in the ‘Warriors of Love’ duodecology of novels, I wonder? Or by some form of Rupettan Wynding via this text’s careful proto-Toynbeean history? ‘Sleeping with History.’ A Philosophy of History that seems somehow to match my own Dreamcatching of Books. But that’s just me.

  5. THE MIRACLE OF TEARS: Languedoc: 1826
    “…when truth and history were parted.”
    There is almost something of a tantalisingly slight springing-up of sexuality within the chest in the Wynding process, as what I call Rupetta’s Null Immortalis is stirred by the arrival of a new Wynder, one with betrayals and betrayings as part of her own backstory before a achingly slow-fire re-smouldering of Rupetta’s awakening. So beautifully conveyed. A rhapsodic feel to the prose, but suspicions of shifting harsher realities beneath such a rhapsody, as Rupetta speaks or writes this narrative to Henri along the dual channels of time toward, I guess, future convergence. The Wynding of Rupetta has that slight sense of sexuality in contrast to the dry clicking of a toy’s Wynding… I feel I need to tantalise this paper text more than any other book’s text I have reviewed with my pencil I use for appending marginalia.

  6. Henri’s Story: Part Three
    “At lunchtime they all sat out on the deck, sipping tea and watching the students move around on the ground far below…”
    We are all ants upon the ground of history? I am learning more and more of the challenge-and-response of this book’s Toynbeean history, couched in an exquisite texture of text, each challenge rejectable, like a transplanted heart, by the next response, with Henri’s studious research into Hereticism and Penitence as two-way filters you cannot avoid absorbing in either direction of challenge. The way flesh can reject is devastatingly described. An internal horror story. Meanwhile, physical love, even more than emotional, between two individuals, is ostensibly wonderful, seeking to enter the other person as a form of self-immolation or nullimmortalis – but with either individual potentially rejectable? And Henri’s only now absorbed backstory regarding her mother perhaps lends ominous weight to the “bright, sharp kick of love binding us together.”

    The Rupetta phenomenon is not a myth although here it teems with textual fairy-tale mythism, as we balance retribution with harmony and a whole panoply of conspiracy and a game of deadly chess using legends as pieces… Thus, this section resonates with a sensibility more real than fantasy, as if a religion through fiction has materialised like those legend-pieces standing up as more than simply holograms, or so I, as reader, help the author to create them in my reading room where I see them appear upon each paper page. We all do, as readers. But without the author, we ourselves would be nothing, our chests empty, or so I imagine.

  8. Henri’s Story: Part Four
    “About Oikos? Yes, of course, but the stuff in those boxes is mostly personal stuff that’s meaningful only to the person who owned it, or cultural Historians, which isn’t really my field: recipes, gardening notes, packets of seeds. Amateur poetry. School recital programs. Local newsletters.”
    History depends on primary sources and archives for its provenance, and I feel history here is seen through the retrocausal prism of Proust and teacups. Here ‘objective correlatives’ have artfully become ‘textured’ domestic objects, and there are aptly domestic family scenes in this section, a family illness, and a direct but now domestic parallel with the board game in the previous section. Henri has now been further opened to the ‘seduction’ of History research and thus, we feel, to Hereticism… And a heretical Isle of Oikos, via these ‘objective correlatives’ with which people lived there, perhaps now abandoned, resonates with my recent experience of the nature of another possibly heretically abandoned land called Area X.

    “And death, resting inside her like a maggot. Her fragile heart and the virus within it wedding its frailty to my own.”
    Rupetta’s own (sometimes direct, sometimes imputed) narration of the lineage or linkage of her enprosed Miracle Plays continues, by synchronised shards of random truth and fiction, telling of her own mythising, via the Fourfold Rupettan Law’s convening of death and life along those lines or links (healthy and sickly alike) of those that uphold this Wynding of the Wynding nullimmortalis in the Penitent Heart. Here, in this section, I sense a momentous cusp in that lineage or linkage that is later studied and researched by Henri.
    RUPETTA is the first book that has satisfactorily, if obliquely, explained the expression Null Immortalis for me. Meanwhile, some may see this work as a steampunk fantasy, but I see it more as splendidly deriving from the textured Weird Literature tradition of those exponents of the Zagava Cycle of Books. But I have still far to go in reading it.
    There may now be a necessary interlude in my dreamcatching of it.

  10. Henri’s Story: Part Five
    “I had had trouble sleeping, heard in my half-dreams the toll of my mother’s and my father’s bells in the garden, his death’s heart chiming above his grave like an angry, chittering clock while hers prettied the hours away.”

    Amid the plangent and rhapsodic prose with which this book has addicted us, there are now elements of recrimination or disappointment for Henri, which we all sometimes feel for loved ones, I guess. In this connection, I wonder if the new arrival of a small girl called Perdita via the offices of the flightless clockwork bird is a destruction of my earlier gynogenesis hypothesis or whether it is actually some form of parthenogenesis or some repercussion from once having lived on Oikos Isle. These alternatives or what Henri automatically assumes vis-a-vis Miri’s backstory, I wonder? “…hand on page, take up the pencil and make one strange and perfect mark that would make it all fall into place.” My marginalia pencil.

  11. THE MIRACLE OF BEAUTY: Rūs: 1895
    “; a Wynder cannot lie, least of all to herself; a Wynder would never take another’s life.”
    I am gratified that a Wynder is vaguely akin to a Hawler in ‘Nemonymous Night’…
    This section continues the linkage and lineage of this book’s ‘history’ threaded through null-Immortalis by the presence of first-person-narrator in the form of fey-cyborg Rupetta, heretic or pure, real or false, and, via Sulway’s expression of Machiavellian Peripheral-Vision, we perceive the dynasties surrounding Rupetta. The genuinely false ‘Rupetta’ appears again in this section, the one fabricated like a mere toy earlier – amid a new conspiracy and sororal schism, leading to the true Rupetta’s exile, exquisitely couched by Sulway but stark and isolated as a condition in itself, hinting of that ‘child’ Perdita, making my thoughts stretch further considering her nature. (One textual mystery on page 227: “Emina stiffened beside me.”??)

  12. Henri’s Story: Part Six
    “Our bodies were forgetting. They knew how to forgive, even when we did not.”
    Unrequited love, unrequited mystery. Henri has finished her long-researched thesis, and I guess this thesis itself knows the solution to the mystery. You will have to guess if I yet know the solution, too, or if even this real-time review, as an autonomous entity beyond the reviewer’s control, knows the solution with my own still being in the dark. It is as if I cannot feel the narrative pulse with my thumb because, like Perdita, I have a separate pulse in that thumb. Suffice to say this is a dramatic section of maiming and kidnapping, full of half-revealed mysteries and wrenching passions, where Sulway controls her highest narrative-gear so far.

  13. THE HIDDEN MIRACLE: Oikos Island: 1936
    ” We sat exhausted and lifted the cups to our lips but the tea was bitter, the cake like dust in our mouths.”
    Gaps in the history filled in? A tale of the eternal child as the only possible parthenogenesis? This rite of Rupetta’s passage, cliff-hawling, to a cave’s community of fey-cyborgs – then to the island, a type of Southern Reach, for me, where stay stretches for years in short order. Poignancy deep. The tick of my own old man’s heart, as I myself approach endless death. And you will be entranced by this pavane (as word-danced by Rupetta for a future Henri) of mother and daughter, thought of as goddesses or monsters? Linearly toward convergence or retrocausation?

  14. Henri’s Story: Part Seven
    Mathilde and Emmeline Salt: An Account of Their Lives from 1895-1946
    Submitted by Henriette Francine Bellmer in accordance with guidelines for the presentation of theses at Obanite College. Completed under the supervision of Master Abel Jenon.

    “Everything was different. Everything was the same.”
    And thus we are privileged to read the whole of Henri’s thesis that we have watched her preparing through this channel of narration. Some readers will understand more things than others when reading this, but it is impossible to tell in which category of reader you are. Only good literature gives you such a chance to sit and wonder about the nature of reading of fiction and truth, mystery and history. The perfect blend leads to a form of religion or revelation, the most imperfect to mere entertainment or escapism. I know on which end of the spectrum this book has so far been for me. This is Henri’s thesis of primary sources and. ‘intuition’, dwelling on domestic issues within the nature of ‘Oikos’ itself, spiritually mundane ones by reference to a ‘mechanical goddess’. As a comparison, in the ‘Warriors of Love’ duodecology, there is a pure female civilisation with males either vanished or little better than animals, where worship is of a pure Goddess (iconographised mundanely) that can reside together with gynogenesis. Here, there is a more a form of parthenogenesis from diversity, icon and deity not separate but blended as a sort of fey-cyborg, heresy and purity, for me, as a symbiosis, transcended by a gestation and birth of an ‘anemophilous’ child, an eternal but changing, almost vulnerable, child, during what I call nullimmortalis and what this book calls “a time of solitude, silence, almost-death, a time outside of time, or, at least, a time outside of history.” The only time outside of history is fiction time? But I must keep my powder dry, as I have not yet finished this momentous book.

  15. THE SEARCH FOR PERDITA: The City of Bridges: Present Day
    “Tribes of herders, philosophers, traders, and storytellers, sages and assassins, converge on the city of bridges, one of the great wonders of the world.”
    That word ‘converge’ used geographically and plotly, no doubt, as we enter this narrative channel’s moment with the present, featuring infodumps of extraneously character-spoken backstory for backstory’s sake and of a strong sense of place for its own sake, too, a place that is contexted with placenames in our own world, making theirs ours. Ours theirs. As fabricated goddess meets fabricated goddess in a striking ending to this section. But which or who of the two is fabricated more than the other? We know who we believe is the real Rupetta. But are we suckered by this author’s Machiavellian Peripheral-Vision* or is the author being suckered by her autonomous text’s own machinations?

    *M P-V being a new genre of literature I recently mentioned here with regard to a book that would be another recommended read for readers of ‘Rupetta’, along with ‘The Bone Clocks’, ‘The Warriors of Love’, ‘The Southern Reach: Area X’, Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ and Marvell’s The Garden…
    “Casting the body’s vest aside,
    My soul into the boughs does glide;
    There like a bird it sits and sings,
    Then whets, and combs its silver wings;”

  16. The City of Bridges: Present Day
    ELM COLLEGE: The Day of Tears

    “And so I will show you how to enter the city of women…”
    These two sections and the previous section are, for me, the book’s coda, a counterproductive one. The book ended when I actually wrote the words above: ‘this momentous book’. And it is indeed a momentous book. It especially is a momentous book (the real Rupetta) if you had finished reading it without the last three sections and if the inevitable convergence had happened “out of narrative time, out of History, into the unrecorded anonymous throng of the unwritten.” Beautiful expression.


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