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
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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TESS NEIS’S PREVIOUS BOOK, MYOWNWINTERSUN, FOCUSED ON THE GLAMOROUS LIVES OF CELEBRITIES. BOTH OF HER BOOKS ARE INTENDED FOR LIGHT READING.