the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: family


by MDY

It’s not safe to be a yellow umbrella. Grand-Uncle Laoshi says the humans are waging a great pogrom against the yellow ones, breaking them and crushing them underfoot and tossing them unto the sky. They dump the corpses in the harbour. I asked him why and he said humans are capricious gods, which means he doesn’t know. My sister Caomei is a yellow. Her name means Strawberry but she’s the color of gold in twilight. I unfurl on top of her to keep her safe.


Writing matters for everything

by MDY

The only extra-curricular tutelage which my mother sent me to in primary school was for English – creative writing, in fact. It wasn’t because I was struggling in school – the opposite, in fact. Before I had some literary rigour drummed into me by a portly straw-haired chap named Roland, my standard creative output in exams and homework tasks could be best characterised as “Minimal Viable Product”. The word count of these contributions spanned from around 400 words to two sentences. “Less is more” was never an axiom I struggled with.

My mother sent me to these classes because, as she told me often, a good command of English was essential to not just the schooling years – where its eponymous subject remains mandatory for one’s entire education – but also to anything I wanted to do in later life. She was insufferably but inevitably correct. From those classes I learnt to control tone, diction, and (to my chagrin) word count so as to best address the expectations of any situation, from the newspaper article to the morbid fairytale. I also learnt that challenging said expectations often yielded superior results: for one task, which required students to write about their favourite place, I unleashed a lyrical tribute to the solace and inner clarity only achievable when perched upon a toilet bowl. I think I got an A- for that one, but it’s the only piece I remember more than 12 years on. I wonder if Roland does too.

Good writing matters whether you’re a journalist or a marine biologist or a behavioural psychologist. It is a prerequisite to (but not determinant of) good speaking, and both are essential for communicating your thoughts and feelings and ideas in a way that gets them heard, acknowledged, and acted upon. Lawyers and doctors must exhibit exquisite mastery of their verbiage; check-out dudes and chicks need at least an intuition of tonal control if they’re to avoid being fired or fired at. My mother gave me, amongst other gifts, the gift of a good kick up the semicolon – to take writing seriously, as the only basic skill I’d ever need. I’m no sadist, but I hope to pass this on to as many people as I can during my lifetime. Because when everyone writes better, everyone understands everyone else better. And that’s where all other hope in the world comes from.

Thanks, Mum.

Writing Live Stories

by MDY

Since my days of formative reading, I’ve been inclined to reserve all judgements – except, that is, in matters of stylistic representation. If there’s one thing which makes us all writers in some respect, it’s the telling of our own stories, the recounting and narratological adaptation of our lives into screenplays projected into the eyelids of another. In primary school, recount was the first form of writing we learnt. “Write about your excursion to the beach”; “recount a highlight moment of your holidays”. We’re all born storytellers, but that initial spark disappears all too quickly within the triptych of Exposition, Development, and Recapitulation (or, as they said in primary school, Introduction-Complication-Resolution). Focus too much on plot, and the true heart of your story – the shimmering mirage of a chance observation, an echo weathered down to diamond by memory – will fall from its ribcage to bounce down the wayside, caked in the dust and murk of polite disinterest.

When I tell stories, I make all the mistakes. Details are omitted then doubled back to by way of back-street tangents, hoisted up from the brooding corners where they’ve slunk to. Events of great magnitude are reduced to shrunken-head footnotes and strung up on beads around amusing minutiae, inflated past the point of verbobesity. I ask my audience where I was going with my story, not to create engagement via dialogue but because I’ve genuinely forgotten. I ramble, I dissociate, I laugh at my own jokes. Even the old legends – the formative writings of chance and coincidence which ricocheted me into my current status – get warped and regurgitated anew with each new telling. If my prose has a reputation for concision, my spoken word is literally eloquent: talkative, in an outward direction, with no end.

On the weekend, as I climbed a hill, I overtook a young girl who was pushing her bicycle upwards with difficulty. Her father, already some hundred metres ahead, soon noticed this filial absence and doubled back. He quietly took hold of his daughter’s bike and pushed it up to the hill’s zenith, at which she remounted and pedalled away without a backward glance. That is the sort of tale which needs no embellishment nor explanation. It is too quiet a tale to tell at parties or gatherings or first dates with people who already believe in you as a writer before you’ve even met. Its rightful place is sequestered in your empty ribcage, passing judgement on all you say is true.