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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March 19, 2010
Special to asia!

The other day I saw a magic act.

Two people were sitting on a stage. One of them had been badly wounded, and much of him had chosen to escape. There were holes all over his body, big chunks that had fallen off, missing bits that had taken flight due to the horror. The two people did not do much except sit together for a time, passing each other love. And then – and here was the magic – I saw the man’s missing bits coming back to him, slowly and painfully, but quite plain for all to see. The wounded parts returned, huge and raw and vulnerable. But they returned.

When we love somebody, we love them into being.



March 13, 2010

How terrible it was when my house fell apart.

The walls caved in, causing my roof to crash through the floor. (Thank goodness I was standing out on the lawn.) My windows cracked and my panes flew to pieces. My library, that most sturdy of rooms, wobbled about and then collapsed, burying all my books. My chimney – for I do have a chimney – landed with a thud on the ground, so that I could bend over and poke my head into it, scraping my nose against its sooty insides. My boiler exploded.

Surveying the rubble, I felt a curious sensation, one that took me quite a while to recognise. It was freedom.



March 11, 2010

Mercy, mercy rolls across the plains and rushes down the mountains. Mercy hurtles like a hurricane across the naked grass. Mercy roils the seabeds and rattles the treetops. Mercy comes to me from another shore, a shore I do not understand. It falls in dollops from the sky.

Upon the place beneath – here, touch. Feel this damp earth. The land with mercy is different from the land without.

Mercy seeps into my soul. I try to receive as much as I can. For those who cannot take, cannot give.



March 8, 2010

I was walking by the river, feeling pleased with myself. It was only a matter of time before I found the Source, I thought. Then I realised, with a shock, that I was meant to be in the water. I was supposed to be in the river’s way. So I dipped in my toes and slowly padded along the pebbly bottom, slipping all the while. The trickle became a stream, became a gush, became a torrent that engulfed, swallowing me and churning and rechurning until I washed up to the surface anew.

Seize the day, people have told me. But I do not want to seize the day.

I want the day to seize me.



March 7, 2010

Consider the simile. It is, apparently, when something is shown to be like something else. The word simile itself is like smile, miles, simian. Simile is similiar to similiar.

Then there’s the metaphor. The metaphor, we are told, stands in for something else. It becomes that something else. A metaphor what? A metaphor consideration. A metaphor thought. A metaphor you and me.

But most of all – conceit. Conceit is an extended metaphor, a metaphor on steroids, a metaphor five hundred guests, instead of five. A conceit in writing, in fact, is often similiar, simile-like, to the conceit of the writer – especially one trying very hard to sound clever and probably not succeeding.



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