Saturday, 18 December 2010

clarissa tan

Clarissa spends her life trying to separate fiction from non-fiction. As a journalist, she focuses on travel and the arts. As a desperately hopeful author, she writes short stories and is working on a novel. Clarissa won the Spectator’s final Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing. Her blog, Words and Letters, is a series of vignettes exploring the nature of fiction.


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January 26, 2010
Special to asia!

Suddenly, all the lights went out in my neighbourhood. There was a power outage. Up and down the street, there were exclamations, curses, the bumping into furniture, the fumbling for torches, the hunting of matches.

I decided to continue reading my book by candlelight. It was a book about Africa – the beauty of Africa, the struggles of Africa, the warmth of Africa, the love of Africa. It seemed as though everything was blanketed by a soft glow and the words, emerging from the shadows, grew luminous.

And as I pondered the wonders of a faraway continent, more flickers came on from house to house, little flames dancing along a road in Southeast Asia, as though in agreement and brotherhood.



January 25, 2010

I went to the River and saw that it was crying. “Why are you crying, River?” I asked. “I am crying because I can see the future,” said the River. “I can see that many will come who do not understand me, who will take from me and not give.”

I went to the River and saw that it was trying. “Why are you trying, River?” I asked. “I am trying to remember,” cried the River. “I am hoping to recall who I once was, because if I forget, all forget.”

I went to the River and saw that it was dying. “Why are you dying, River?” I asked. “I am dying because nobody swims in me any more,” sighed the River. “They look and point and sully my waters, but none of them dare to dive."



January 24, 2010

Here I am, at thirty-eight. I have learned much about work, and offices and schedules and turning up on time. But in the business of writing, in the art of using words to convey both truth and feeling, I am young.

Here I am, at thirty-eight. I have known parents and sisters and cousins, grandparents and teachers and students. But in the matters of Compassion, in the understanding of human hearts and their depths of joy and sorrow, I am young.

Here I am, at the crossing of the ways. I have known friendships and relationships, heartbreak and tears. But in the matters of Love, in its giving and receiving, in the constant surrender of the moment to something greater than myself, I am young. I am young.



January 20, 2010

It is the funny distinction of words that we should give the most of them to those we like the least. For those we care about, we harbour our words carefully, afraid that we might say the wrong thing, wanting to impress, terrified of making our feelings known. We have something invested in these words, and so we gather them close.

But for all other people, for mere acquaintances, for the friends of friends, we are cavalier. We garland such people with clumsy sentences, scatter effusive compliments over them like confetti, string them up with punitive verbs, run circles around them with misbegotten poetry. We have nothing to lose.

So the best things in the world are left unsaid.



January 19, 2010

How many writers dip their pens into their very wounds, and write from the blood that flows?

How many writers take the story of the Nightingale and the Rose to heart, and make like the bird who pressed his breast against a thorn, and sung until a rose stained red, sung until something new flowered, sung for a scholar’s true love, sung whether it was worth it or not, sung until he could sing no more, sung until the dawn broke open?

Only a very few.



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