MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from Costalegre by Courtney Maum, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Courtney Maum

Costalegre by Courtney Maum X
Costalegre by Courtney Maum
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2019, 240 pages
    Jul 14, 2020, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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Print Excerpt


Nothing good can come from lunch. This is one of mother's sayings, but Jack could only come for lunch, and men can't fish at night. So everyone assembled at two thirty, pulled from work, or hate.

We were back to stagnancy. The heat, as yet unbroken; the news, no news; the rain that teased to fall at any time, and then (truly teasing) didn't.

Over the weekend, another horse gone from the stables. At night there are dark sounds, like a kind of heaving. Not neighs or whimpers, these are the cries of animals who are going to escape.

When Jack arrived for luncheon, even his own horse was like something tracked. Ears pinned, his bead eyes wide. Nostrils huge and desperate. No good can come at day. Konrad found out that mother saw the painting and had been complimenting him to everyone. Boasting that he'd "returned." As a punishment, he has stopped working, or he has been unable to. He said he took a knife to the canvas, but I don't think he did. A knife to mother is more likely, now that we're all here to watch.

I helped Maria make another flan but it wasn't gay this time. Monday is usually a rest day, so none of the staff are happy. I don't know why it had to be Monday, or fish, but it did, and so it was. Maria wasn't humming as she normally does, a sung word from time to time, she just clucked at me, and then the head shaking, and I want to say, I'm fine! I'm here after all, I'm cooking with you, I am not my father's darkness, I didn't do those things. Sometimes, this day, I just want to be a child in a pink house on the beach, with English books to get through, my own friends to play with, sand and yellow cornmeal underneath our fingernails.

I changed for lunch. Who cares. Sometimes it feels as if my beauty is this expected thing I must show up with, so I try not to, but I guess I'm vain, as well. I didn't want my mother to whine about how she would have preferred the white dress to the pink one, how my hair shouldn't be bunned. Even Baldomero puts his word in: says when my hair's down, that it's striking. Legrand reaches for it, runs it through his stubby fingers. A treasure, he says. An international one.

Jack was late, and so the loons started one of their old games down by the pool. Hetty in a swimsuit, her shapely calves stretched out, and Legrand kneeled down before her, painting lines around her toes.

"I'm a zebra!" Hetty yelped. She'd had wine; the others also. Pitchers kept on coming out; Maria's mouth was pinched.

I was sitting underneath the palapa, reading my big book about the native scenery, which is tiring me some. The author is so taken by her world of plants, completely absorbed by it, always eating fruit. Always in some nice locale eating lovely fruit. Her life dedicated to the task of writing these plants down. How terribly wicked to be so single-minded. And fortunate for her.

Baldomero came and sat by Hetty, brought a brush up to her thigh. My mother said something that made everybody laugh, but I didn't hear what.

Hetty had a big hat on; she was pleased with her appearance. C. was already half naked in the pool. Mum once said the first time she encountered C., she'd come to a drinks party completely naked with the soles of her feet painted in yellow mustard, left tracks all through the house. I both believe this and don't believe it. But I suppose it's true.

When Jack arrived, Baldomero was wielding his brush around Hetty's groin, and I was pretending to be absorbed by my big book. Maria slouching when she was rung for more red wine.

The property was in a state again. Perhaps because it wasn't nighttime, mother hadn't gone to a great effort, and the litter from their other games was in the pool. A wilted paper lantern. A small table on which me and Walter had played cards. C. floating belly up with her breasts out, nipples to the sun like cherries on an île flottante, which is something I thought before Legrand actually said it, calling, "Maria, Maria, can we whip some cream! Our île flottante is floating!!" And everybody laughed. It would take a very clever person to diagram what the loonies think is fun.

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Excerpted from Costalegre by Courtney Maum. Copyright © 2019 by Courtney Maum. Excerpted by permission of Tin House Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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