The launch of a nov­el­ist’s mem­oir marks a tri­umphant re­turn to her roots

Tess Neis re­turns to her roots for the launch of her sec­ond book

Cebu Living - - Contents - By LEX CELERA Illustration by DAN­ICA CONDEZ

A nov­el­ist re­turns to her home­land for the release of her sec­ond book, which, in a way, de­tails the life of a woman liv­ing far away from her birth­place. Call it a home­com­ing of sorts. This De­cem­ber, Tess Neis will launch her sec­ond novel The Cor­ner of

Ir­rel­e­vance in SM City Cebu. “It feels really good. I be­lieve lit­tle suc­cesses such as this should be cel­e­brated in the com­pany of fam­ily and friends who are all- out in giv­ing their un­di­vided sup­port,” Neis shares. “It makes the whole ex­er­cise of launch­ing a book more mean­ing­ful and more fun at the same time. Need­less to say, it is also a very good ex­cuse to come home.”

Cur­rently re­sid­ing in Sydney, Aus­tralia, Neis works for re­tail chain Har­vey Nor­man as a na­tional lease ad­min­is­tra­tion man­ager. She had teach­ing stints in var­i­ous places in China and in the Philip­pines. Given her de­mand­ing job, it’s un­canny for Neis to be able to pump out two nov­els, but for her it’s a mat­ter of just find­ing the time. “Al­most al­ways, the writ­ing hap­pens while I am on the bus or train on my way to work. Some­times the germ of an idea can also hit me while I am in the mid­dle of a lease re­view,” Neis says.

The novel be­gins with the per­sona, in mid­dle age, re­flect­ing on great­ness, medi­ocrity, and death in the con­text of what has hap­pened through­out her life— wide, sweep­ing arcs of thought pieces and mus­ings, but mostly ques­tions. The per­sona asks, “Is a life of medi­ocrity a life well lived? A life worth liv­ing?” Sev­eral chap­ters in and you will forget that th­ese ques­tions have been asked. It’s easy to dis­miss th­ese un­der­pin­nings and just enjoy the re­main­der of the novel, which in its bulk is an anachro­nis­tic, day- by- day reimag­in­ing of the un­named char­ac­ter’s en­coun­ters, which are, need­less to say, or­di­nary. Neis lists Jane Austen as one of her writ­ing in­flu­ences, and Austen’s pen­chant for the ev­ery­day, as well as an in­ter­est in women and their ed­u­ca­tion bleeds in The Cor­ner of Ir­rel­e­vance. Yet Neis’s novel stands on its own, on its two awk­ward left feet, eas­ing the bur­den the novel’s heav­ier themes carry.

The novel’s self- dep­re­cat­ing tone can be cum­ber­some to read, given the ad­mit­tedly slow- paced and or­di­nary en­coun­ters through­out the book. But the self- re­flec­tive nar­ra­tion tells of a yearn­ing to be heard, of how a char­ac­ter known only through her re­la­tion­ships— as a wife, a daugh­ter, and an em­ployee— at­tempts to stand up and de­mand to be no­ticed and be taken se­ri­ously. What­ever tropes ex­ist and per­sist in soap op­eras and te­len­ov­e­las, you can ex­pect in The Cor­ner of Ir­rel­e­vance. But be wary of fall­ing into the lulling episodes of the pro­tag­o­nist who has no name, and in­stead no­tice the lit­tle strug­gles that con­trib­ute to the pro­tag­o­nist’s over­bear­ing dilem­mas. The un­named pro­tag­o­nist, af­ter all, car­ries her strug­gles as a woman of color. The Cor­ner of Ir­rel­e­vance is not a se­ries of old wives’ tales, but an upbeat, heart­felt clear­ing of a throat, no mat­ter how semi- autobiographical or fic­ti­tious the story is.

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