Can the novel “The Fourth Sister” by Laura Scott be seen as a harmful accusation?
Scott’s poetry is straightforward and enlightening, yet not simplistic. There is an enigmatic quality to it, acknowledging the fleeting nature of life that cannot be controlled or tamed. In her poem “Email,” which takes place in two rooms with a view, the task of responding to the email in the first half of the poem seems to encompass a deeper and unexplored challenge beyond observing the behavior of leaves, branches, or the sky. The question posed in the poem, “So how do I reply?” is a recurring theme in Scott’s writing, revealing a humbling self-doubt that adds to her captivating power as a poet.
Scott’s fantastic first book, So Many Rooms, solidified her reputation as a fan of Russian literature, particularly Tolstoy. Once again, she pays tribute to literature as a tangible force and demonstrates how our reading material shapes our lives. The Fourth Sister is a tribute to Chekhov (and, if I am interpreting correctly, Scott is one of three sisters herself). The fourth sister, who Chekhov never wrote about, serves as a vessel for all that troubles her. The titular poem is akin to a silent bell that cannot ring.
unsung unrung undone
Is that really me? (Oh my God) Is that really me?
The fourth sister, who is desperate and has not yet been written about, is finally set free: “the one who manages to escape / from the restrictive narrative”. Throughout the story, desperation is balanced by cleverness. In a charming sonnet without rhyme, titled “Short Story”, the sister envisions Chekhov being anxious about having a boring companion on a long journey. She spreads a rumor that he is “a drunk and a fraud, actually a nihilist, and, to top it off / in a daring twist, a bore”. She declares, “it was successful”.
The term “bore” is found to be the most lethal insult – a quick repellent. The use of words such as “boredom”, “boring”, or “bore” has a surprisingly high chance of backfiring. Simply uttering these words can trigger a feeling of boredom as a reflex. While some writers are able to skillfully use these words, like Beckett in Waiting for Godot and Baudelaire in his condemnation of ennui, it was Chekhov who truly understood the role of boredom in the human psyche.
Scott understands boredom, as well, with no negative consequences. In fact, in the uniquely successful The Bored Cowboy, it is the cowboy’s boredom (representing a larger idea) that actually helps him. As he becomes increasingly unoccupied, she becomes more engaged in the moment as she listens to the melody of a blackbird.
It seems as though the individual is portraying the role or image of a cowboy.
who slinks in
each day and inclines
against the wall
stringing his rope
with trinkets and worries
and spinning it
surrounding me in a circle
and dropped it
to the ground
for me to do
Therefore, I had no tasks to complete.
The distance separating me and the sound.
The Boring King is a delicate fairytale poem that references the narrator’s father, the King, and her and her two sisters who fall asleep whenever he speaks. In Still Life, the author takes us on a whimsical journey, imagining life as a blown glass before surprisingly shifting to envisioning it as a blown beach towel. This poem also acknowledges boredom along with other aspects of life.
it becomes a shell
When the sand falls away and the object extends in front of you, it transforms into a shell.
the raggy sprawl of a life, your life blown into shape,
by the wrong turns
The mistakes and yearning within it, the calmness and swiftness of it controlled by the incorrect decisions.
there in the air, the arcs of joy and lack of meaning in it,
The monotony and passions of it, the lengthy, exquisite rhythm of it.
In one of his writings, Chekhov stated that the key to making people bored is by telling them everything. This is something that Scott never does.
Laura Scott’s book, The Fourth Sister, is available for purchase for £11.99 from Carcanet. To help the Guardian and Observer, you can order your own copy at guardianbookshop.com. Additional fees may be required for delivery.
Message from Laura Scott via email.
He described the view from his window to me.
The bay tree appears to be illuminated, possibly due to a nearby fire.
A bird was seen in the garden of a nearby house.
dotting, and then clinging to a lilac bush,
The sky longed for a blue hue – and the words ignited.
The lights seemed to dance like a path leading to something. How can I rephrase this?
I can only see the sky through my window.
“The branches extend outward, resembling a hand.”
There is a piece of gauze hanging, stretching out in one direction.
in front of it with its own sewn pattern
of branches and leaves. But today
“The sky was a vivid blue, unabashed, filled with branches all around.”
Carrying out their tasks – yes, convey that to him.