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 4, 2010
Special to asia!

here i am sitting on the cushion sitting on mat what did the guru say? breathe in breathe out observe your thoughts let it come let it go

here i am sitting on the cushion sitting on mat what did the guru say? breathe in breathe out observe your thoughts let it come let it go

can’t believe it when i wrote an email to guru the other day trying to impress prove i am good student told him i was meditating calmly gently economously like he told us to and he wrote back said was very glad i was meditating calmly gently and equanimously then i realised i had made spelling error actually don’t even really know what equanimous means

focus focus let it go breathe in breathe out third eye third eye observe just observe nothing more let it come let it go economous! shit



January 2, 2010

Heavy footfalls to the door, then rapping. His mother, it seems, has been expecting them. There they stand, boot-cladded, with guns. “We hear you have a boy,” they say. His mother shrugs. “Do what you must,” she says. “He is hopeless. Even his father left him.” The boy, 12, has a wondering face and eyes as blue as the lake he swam in yesterday. Beside him, his dog.

One of the men raises his arm, shoots. The boy contracts but gives no sound. How to say that the dog had not only been his best friend, but his Daddy? There is no time for grief. The man comes forward, stretches out a metal badge. “You deserve it now,” he says.

This is how you make a soldier.



December 31, 2009

It seems pretty arbitrary, really. That someone, somewhere – was it some Roman emperor? – decided to place a marker on some ticker-tape of time and declared that, here, just so, right on this spot, is when we turn the corner, say adios, au revoir, auld lang syne, should auld acquaintance be forgot, etc.

It might as well have been yesterday. It may have well been tomorrow. It probably should have been at 11:23 a.m. next Tuesday. But no, someone decreed that tonight, at the stroke of midnight, is when we all will slip from one year to another, sometimes from one decade to the next, crossing some irretrievable line of no return.

Thus are all things henceforth new, all things hitherto old.



December 30, 2009

However far and long I wander – and I can wander for years – there are certain places where I feel safe, wanted, accepted, loved. No matter what my failings, my forgettings, my frailties and my utter foolishness, some homes are always patient and kind, some doors forever open.

This season I stood again at a friendly threshold, around which bobbed three faces, familiar since childhood. These people have given me more than I sometimes think I deserve, helped me more than they know. They make my empty words full.

We feasted once they took me in, as they always do.



December 29, 2009

Three years ago, as we approached a New Year, I went to the Poetry section of a new bookstore. There were huge shelves of Arnold, Basho, Blake, the Brownings, Clare, Dryden, Pessoa, Spender, Spenser, Wang Wei. Should I buy them? I thought not, because there were novels, essays, other more practical writings to purchase.

Today I went back, and the Poetry section had shrunk beyond all recognition. Left only forlorn copies of the more commercially viable – special edition Carrolls, generously illustrated Nerudas, gift-sized Shakespearean sonnets.

I felt at first a shot of anger, rage at the philistines who had forgotten all about poetry, leaving it to fester and die in misbegotten corners. And then I realised that the culprits weren’t people who didn’t like poetry, but people like me, who had thought it too beautiful to buy.



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