How is everyone in the days leading up to Christmas? I came across a caroling group that day, on one of the floors in a mall, and the feeling was so warm and cuddly, together with the general Christmas spirit and the happier tunes playing on the radio. I am happiest in this month compared to other days in the year. The last two weeks have also been personally special to me, and overall this has been a very memorable December, and perhaps portending of things to come?
Perhaps my literature should also move towards happier tomes, and my cat has a new polka dot navy collar. She also gets swayed and rocked with Christmas tunes several times in a day, and every year, this must be a particularly puzzling season for her!
Today, I came across an Etsy artist who converts Etsians’ handwriting into little hanging pieces, and it got me thinking on how our squiggly nothings reveal aspects of our characters (or so they say).
I grew up speculating on handwriting, and like many others, tried out different types of styles and methods, and tried very hard to typeprint or even introduce little animals into my writing like Ramona Quimbly (observe ‘Q’ with whiskers and ears). Then I wanted a strong romantic cursive, very 40s, wanting to live life with a bold beautiful flourish which would always end with a slur reaching out with a strand into nothingness. Later, I convinced myself to be mathematical and logical and tried to have letters of the exact same diameter, alike Hammel iron beads. Today, I am puzzled by my handwriting which is a combination perhaps of all these sudden and perplexing convictions in my character which continues to confuse my teachers and people I meet in my life.
The prettiest handwriting I’ve ever seen was from a girl in my opposite Theatre Studies class, who had the nicest type print and perfectly justified handwriting, and played the harp. Recently, my Xiaodi also declared the harp to be one of the most complex and difficult string instruments to master, requiring almost perfect muscle memory. Perhaps her affinity to order also allows her to create beautiful, exact pieces with the harp?
I would like to think of my handwriting as being a sort of jazz river, seemingly imprecise but secretly marching to an internal order, teeming with impulsive and reckless desires – Great Gatsby with a Jekyll/Hyde personality lurking in the dots and curves. Unfortunately I think the present form is less alluring. But still there is something I love about physical words and writing, even if it is of seemingly nothing significant at all, the way D used to fill up a4 papers with tiny microscopic words during history revision, producing little crafted Polly Pocket papers which I longed to make into cranes and fly out of the window.
Latin is appealing in writing.
In the same way, I love the way musicians pen out notes on scribbly scores. Pianissimo! Appassianato!
One of the most delightful authors to read in this regard is Milan Kundera. I’ve written many times about Kundera perhaps, but his writing continues to thrill me, and reads like a crafted score. I believe his immaculate eye to detail in his writing owes itself perhaps to his musical training, which could have undermined him, but instead the result is of a dazzling Wagner fluidity and balance. He reads music and notes in the writing of his favourite authors. I lack the training, but listen like a little obsessed fan wishing the notes would sing themselves in my mind as they do his. Irving hummed me some waltzes over the phone that day, he says he has been playing Strauss on the violin, and all of a sudden I think of Austria and all the things that waltzes do to my mind. Irving laughs at me and says that everything to me nowadays is a Danube Rhapsody.
Whether a love declaration is grotesque, the sudden presentation of a sunflower to an old woman, the feeling of a good hard drink in a Scottish bar – all these in music would conjure a certain movement which can only move in images in words. When coupled and read in harmony the effect is suddenly profound, you see how the words, sounds and movement go together. The sudden jerk in a person’s hand, the way you recall a certain part of a memory to match what you are reading, the way a kick in a waltz registers itself, like the taste of macchiato (which AS says, seems to be a foreign and indescripable affection) does not register itself as a single note, but a moving series which can be sometimes ludicrous in the way it moves quicker before we can conclude ourselves whether we even like it. Without the music to the images and notes, the scene would be comical – even reflective, but the notes would be struggling to present themselvs forth – like a Charlie Chaplin movie and the dash of happy steps towards a sunset with a singing chorus girl with bright eyes.
In the world, there is so much of music.
Above my work office table, there is a little picture of a carousel I captured in Paris, lights flickering in vintage painted images, a boat in a sea as the hanging mast of a travelling carousel. And perhaps this is the way my world spins in literature – the way the words and feelings refuse sometimes to resolve and calm themselves, the way they clash and conflict, the way I match incompatible emotions instinctively, and reach the building staccato tension in the middle of Poe. Still I wish for the music to come more naturally instead of the jagged way music reaches me, and the way it comes so naturally for Irving, who quotes and sees things sometimes in tree imagery and many, many branches!
Nostalgia. One might almost be able to taste the words.