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.


Contact Clarissa

-A +A
March 5, 2010
Special to asia!

So my friend and I were sitting on a branch of a tree, in the sun. This friend has seen my life blown to smithereens, lying in fragments on the ground. She did not help me pick up the shards; she did something better. She showed me it was OK to have one’s existence blown apart.

So she saw me, and I saw her. And while we were sitting there, legs dangling, it hit me like the rays of sun stinging my face and hands – I don’t want to be a writer.

I want to be a person – wholly, fully, joyfully – who just happens to write.



March 4, 2010

I went to the home of a witch, with its bubbling cauldron and eyes of newt and multi-coloured bottles of potions and things. “Please,” I asked, “Can you give me a spell so that I will remain as young as possible, for as long as possible?” She gave me a blue flask that gurgled and frothed.

“And please,” I said, “Could give me a charm so that I can recognise the Love of my Life when I see him?” The witch glanced at me sharply, then handed me a bright red crystal to wear round my neck. “One more thing, Sorceress,” I pleaded, “Do you think you could make it so that my Love will stay with me forever, and never break my heart?”

“Oh my dear,” she said, looking at me sorrowfully. “That is something I cannot do. For that is where true magic lies.”



February 24, 2010

How much we have lost with the passing of the age of steeds.

We have lost the lady and the unicorn, Prince Charming on his white horse. We have lost the thundering of hooves and the wind-whipped mane, cresting over hills. We have lost the highwayman who cuts your purse while kissing your hand. We have lost our chariots of fire. We have lost Pegasus. We have lost the Pony Express and all our mail.

What did we get in return? Some tacky bucking bronco game at hen parties. So-called Oriental scrolls done in imitative style, of burly horses nudging each other against clumsily paintbrushed mountains, calendars of kitsch.



February 21, 2010

For many years, he thought God was a mountain.

His God was someone to aim for, to conquer, to scale. Effort had to be made. And thus, clinging to the craggy sides, whipped by the wind from all directions, he slowly clambered in the thinning air. When his fingers bled, he gripped the harder. When his mouth grew dry, he grasped for all he was worth.

And this could have gone on forever, except that one day, he clasped so hard at the cliff face that the stones came loose, and he fell, fell, fell – down, down and down – into the arms of Love.



February 20, 2010

Her mother had left her at a door, a door. And all through her life, she would look at doors differently, with expectancy and curiosity. What lay behind this door, and that? How could one tell if a door was welcoming or dangerous? This one with the brass knocker, this one with the rush mat. How had her mother known which would be safe?

But any time now, she knew, there would be a knock and there her mother would be – shining, beaming, telling her the story of the incredible, unavoidable set of circumstances that had led to their separation. Thus her soul stood always a little ajar. Why, just the other day she had heard a banging and a pounding, had run down the stairs and down her hallway, flung open -

But there was nobody.


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
(Comments on asia! are moderated before they appear on




Chilli Padi

Couch Potato

Field Notes

From Jerusalem to the West Bank

Words and Letters