Felicity Castagna's Indiscretions
I am very excited this week to be hosting a blog post from Australian writer Felicity Castagna. Felicity's short stories have been broadcast on ABC Radio National and are widely published in Australian Literary magazines and anthologies. Her first collection of short stories, Small Indiscretions, has just been published by Transit Lounge.
Writing My Indiscretions
by Felicity Castagna
I finished most of my recent short story collection, Small Indiscretions: Stories of Travel in Asia about two years ago, and I wrote all the stories in it over several years before that. As someone who is just over thirty, this book represents about a third of my life. It wasn’t all I was doing in those years, but it was certainly always in my mind and it was always forming and reforming itself in my imagination.
People often comment that I don’t write about my own life or my own experience and that this is unusual for a young writer, but I look at Small Indiscretions and even though I might be writing about a young paranoid boy in Jakarta or a retired couple drinking bootleg alcohol in Brunei or a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in the casinos of Macau, there is a lot of myself in-between the lines. When I reread these stories I think about all of the places I’ve been and of how those places become a part of you. I come from a long line of travellers and movers, particularly on my dad’s side of the family. Travelling, living between and amongst other cultures was a huge part of my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was eighteen that my family finally settled down in Sydney after a life-time of moving back and forth between different areas of the U.S and Australia. After so many unsettled years, I couldn’t stay put. Luckily, I was living a stone’s throw from this whole region called Asia, which I knew nothing about. Over a period of about 8 years I left Australia again and again as soon I could get the money and the resources together to go back. I became completely addicted to all things Asian from Thai covers of Michael Jackson songs to Chinese herbal cures.
As soon as you put me in a foreign space I can walk for hours on end without getting tired. When I travel, I walk down main streets and back alleys and suburbs and I think about all the landscapes I’m seeing and how people react to them. My stories were all initially written as fragments of something I saw. I usually started by writing things down that I didn’t really understand. I think, in a way, Small Indiscretions is about a lack of understanding: It’s about a bunch of non-Asian characters hanging out in Asian cities and not really being able to fully comprehend what they are seeing; it’s about foreigners exploring foreign places and seeing what questions the place and the people ask of them as travellers.
I wrote this book for people like me who first read a lot of fiction set in the places they are travelling to long before they ever try reading a straight forward travel guide. I think the questions writers ask of us as readers are much more interesting than the answers that travel guide writers provide us with.