Suneeta Peres da Costa
April 15, 2012 / mascara / 0 Comments
Suneeta Peres da Costa is an award-winning writer whose work includes the bestselling novel Homework (Bloomsbury), stories, essays, and poems in local and international journals and anthologies, as well as numerous productions for ABC Radio. The pieces that appear here are taken from a collection of short, experimental fiction. She currently lives in Sydney.
The Changed Woman
Had she changed, she wondered? For though there were some visible signs of her transformation what was difficult was that the more significant changes had happened inside her and therefore could not really be seen at all. Often she tried to remember and make the gestures of her old self, and while this might have reassured the others, she herself knew this old self was merely a sheath, an elaborate and outmoded disguise. When she discarded it, however, it seemed these people, much beloved by her, could not recognise her and spoke disapprovingly of her new ways. Despite her efforts to win them over, they were unwilling, or else incapable, of understanding her. They went about their lives, faithful to their old habits, while she grew restive and weary of it all, dreaming of circuses and caravans and distant lands. Eventually she devised an escape plan. The heartbreaking thing was she could not say goodbye for if she so much as looked into the eyes of these familiar people, now virtual strangers, she was sure her resolve to leave would itself break forever. So on the appointed day, she rose at dawn, placed a few possessions—heirlooms and relics as she already considered them—in a bag and made her way to the end of the valley and up through the mountain pass. The sky changed, the vegetation changed, but somehow, despite the heavy cloak she wore for protection from the elements, she felt a sure-footed lightheartedness.
The Mirror Man
Was shy, retiring, but his problem was he shone and gave a bad impression despite his every effort to go unremarked. He would try to be still, so as not to upset the careful geometry of others’ existences, but if he was knocked by the smallest force—a gust of wind, say, or a loud noise—he shimmered and glowed and peopled shouted and raised their fists at him. He would have liked to disappear, and yet he was everywhere, or so it seemed, reverberating and reflecting. At other times he would have liked to speak, to recite a poem, whistle, or even sing, but he was alas imprisoned by an intractable muteness. On certain moonlit evenings, if he became tangentially aware of what it might be to know another, to identify, it nevertheless remained a kind of abstract knowledge, unable to be put to good use. The birds would descend from the trees, catching the coquettish reflections of their bright wings in his silvery glass and then fly up to the sky away from him. No one actually touched him, though beautiful women spoke through him, as though to an ancient oracle, of such things as their longings and dreams. Occasionally, overhearing the cries of neighbourhood children, he was so lonely, so envious of their games and easy camaraderie, the Mirror Man would hope that their ball might crash though and even shatter him—as often happened to a local window.
Suneeta Peres da Costa, Author, Peres Da Costa, Author Bloomsbury Publishing PLC $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-58234-060-9This first novel about an Indian family transplanted to Australia introduces a young writer with a gift for humor, irony and tragicomedy and an unusual, sometimes stiflingly inventive way with words. Peres da Costa's irrepressible heroine, Mina Pereira, was born with two ""protuberances, no bigger than finger tips"" on the top of her skull. As she grows, these nodes or feelers heighten and betray Mina's emotional states as she negotiates her way through a series of misadventures. Mina's mother is a palliative physician, caretaker of the terminally ill (""I'd rather die,"" Mina tells the neighbors when they ask her if she would like to pursue the same career). Her father, a tinkerer and dissident, has a printing press in the garage from which he publishes a triannual publication on Goan liberation. Mina's two sisters--Deepa, the eldest, a smug, relentlessly superior genius, and Shanti, the youngest, and the only ""normal"" one, who sits in front of the TV all day watching cartoons--and her friends, a one-eyed neighbor boy named Quentin and Deepa's school friend Jacinta, a vicious terror of mythic proportions, are woven into Mina's poignant and deadpan narration of disasters small and large. Moving from adventures with Sea Monkeys, librarians and violin lessons, Mina gradually brings the dissolution of her parents' lives to center stage, as her father struggles with his wife's deepening manic depression and her contempt for him, and retreats to a hideaway he digs under the house. Though Mina claims to love her mother boundlessly, it is the touching portrait of her father that convinces most. In the end, the little antennae seem an unnecessary device, for Mina's voice--and her own take on her indomitable sisters and her doomed father--propel this talented young Australian's story forward with unconventional wit, energy and depth of feeling. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-58234-106-4
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