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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December 18, 2009
Special to asia!

My father said. My father said, run your own race. My father said, don’t look to your left or to your right. My father said, head only for your own finishing line. He said, never, ever stop halfway. Never stop halfway.

My father ran. My father ran from starting block to tape, he shuffled from one goalpost to another, he long-jumped across sand. He ran from my mother when she was angry. My father laughed. He said life was too absurd to take seriously. He said you must have a passion, a dream.

My father brandished a hockey stick, drank teh at the Seng Nam.



December 17, 2009

One Christmas, many years ago, I saw two girls opening presents under a tree. The first girl had a doll, with dark hair and a set of clothes, and she held it happily. The second girl opened her gift to reveal a Barbie, the real thing, with a pink gown and a tiara and lots of other baubles. She waved and flaunted it in front of the first girl, who shrank, abashed.

The years passed, and the first girl studied hard and relied on scholarships. She started drawing, trying to carve beauty from the spaces we all have been given; she had understood the value of limitations. She became an architect. The second girl wore make-up at 12, ate a lot, and started a peek-a-boo website of herself at 16.

I shall see the both of them again this Christmas.



December 16, 2009

Shouldn’t we get someone older? I mean, this pudgy cherub, is he the best we have? Shouldn’t we get someone with more experience, someone with Relationships Management on his CV, Couples Counselling, that kind of thing?

Shouldn’t we at least equip him with a better set of bow and arrows? Perhaps quills that come in identical pairs, so two people fall in love at the same time, with the same intensity? Shouldn’t we ensure that none of the tips are poisoned, so nobody gets hurt?

And why can’t we – in this day and age when everyone seems to be raising money for everything – cobble some funds together and pay him for some shooting lessons, so that at least he can improve his aim?



December 15, 2009

01:00 – Cannot sleep. But it’s OK, it’s only 1. Thing is, to be jaunty. Walk about. Make hot milk. Read detective novel. Too exciting. Read today’s papers. Soporific. So why still not nodding off?

02:00 – Think sadly of how could have slept at 1; wonder miserably if will still be awake at 3.

03:00 – Capitulation. No more fighting to sleep! Pretend everything normal, surrender to situation. Now indifferent, apathetic, apolitical. Strangely somnolent. Sleeping through insomnia.



December 14, 2009

Do you want snow? asked the man. You can have snow. I can make it fall from the top of your screen to the bottom, and it won’t leave a puddle on your laptop.

I thought about my country, with its luscious fruits and sweaty jungles. For some reason, I felt I was betraying it. I have seen snow several times, but only once when it was falling. It swirled down from heaven like dessicated coconut.

Yes, I told the snow man. Yes, please give me snow.



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