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 27, 2009
Special to asia!

More than being a time for tinsel and tinkly songs, the holidays are a season for making lists – lists of favourite songs of the year, lists of the best books of the decade, lists of the world’s greatest disasters, lists for shopping, lists of resolutions, lists of the most and least fashionable people, lists of all the lists available.

This is why I hate lists: 1) they arise from a desire to judge; 2) they pander to our delusion that everything can be categorised; 3) they contradict each other; 4) they are boring; 5) they are done to provoke disagreement and retaliatory lists; 6) they fill me with a deep-seated anxiety that time is passing too fast; 7) I cannot come up with any list topic of my own to which people would even remotely want to contribute; 8) I am unable to make even this list stretch to 10 items.



December 24, 2009

We all go home, in the end. We wend our way, through chilly airports and tropical train stations and lonely bus depots, carrying winter coats and taking off woolen scarves and carefully arranging gifts so their wrappers aren’t too crumpled by the time we reach the door.

Inside, always, a Mother: one who tends a stove, one who waits for some large pot to boil, the gravy, the potatoes, the stew, the gumbo, the curry, the laksa. One in charge of the nativity, one who’s carefully garlanded the tree, one who’s prepared the way, tending with grace and devotion, waiting for her baby to arrive.



December 23, 2009

I looked up and there he was, my Muse. (He doesn’t look too impressive, incidentally. Perhaps our Muses are a reflection of our confidence. Or worse, our talents.)

- “You’re not giving enough,” he told me, getting straight to the point. – “You’ve got to be joking,” I said. “I do nothing but try.” – “If you don’t break open and reveal your heart,” said my Muse, “how can people ever really see you?”

And he went, leaving me to wonder if he had given me advice for writing, or for life.



December 21, 2009

How strange it was. I woke up one morning and I was a blade of grass. My life was spent reaching out to the sun. I did not have much time, even less than the lilies of the field.

And all around me were fellow blades of grass, swaying gently. And when I listened closely, I could hear a quiet, passionate hum:

“Oh, to be human!” they sang. “Oh to have arms and legs and eyelashes and fingers. Oh to be able to dance and play and step all over us. Oh to be able to hurt and cry and be in pain, to laugh and sneeze and fall in love.



December 19, 2009

I had a nightmare. The door was darker than dark. The Wicked Witch – of the West, of the East – stood in white shadow. A dog chewed at my hand, gnawing at heart-strings. I fended it off, it hurtled into blackness.

She reached into my body, wrenched.

My heart! I cried. – my heart rolled onto the floor -



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Chilli Padi

Couch Potato

Field Notes

From Jerusalem to the West Bank

Words and Letters