Thoughts on Writing

Some Like it Hot

This video on Douyin gave me a much-needed laugh as I waited with trepidation for the human cost of the Wuhan virus to come to light: a stern voice on a loudspeaker warns the inhabitants of a village against engaging in extramarital sex while the country is in the grip of the epidemic -“別個傳染給你,晚上你傳染給你婆娘,你婆娘傳染給隔壁老王,老王傳染給老王婆娘,那全村不都遭洗白了啊!”

The bluntness of the alert’s wording reminded me of a banner I once saw while journeying through rural Shaanxi – “寧可血流成河,不準超生一個.” “Why put things in so graphic a manner?” I asked the tour guide. “If the population control unit had been too concerned with the fine points of tact, rural people wouldn’t have gotten the message,” came his reply.

As a writer constantly on the lookout for ways to finetune her ear for the languages she works in, I see in the above examples an instructive takeaway: There aren’t many subjects that are trickier for a writer to handle than sex, due to its taboo nature; one misstep and the reader can rightfully accuse you of vulgarity. It doesn’t help that there are no hard and fast rules on how to write about sex intelligently. The judge who came up with that oft-quoted definition of pornography – “I know it when I see it” – could have applied the same characterization to a writer’s deft treatment of sex

I know it when I read A A Gill that he’s a class act in using references to sex to make his readers see the world anew and be in awe of its hidden connections and ironies. Here is his description of mussels:

“My editor hit the high spot of the meal with his mussels cooked in Tuborg beer
(accept no substitutes) and chillies. These groyne feeders had been poached so
long, they had shrivelled to look like nothing so much as a get-to-know-your clitoris Aid.”

He is just as effective when he pretends to be bashful and tiptoes around his subject, thereby revealing more by saying less. His take on the abalone:

“For those of you with a sensitive disposition, or who haven’t been to church yet, I strongly suggest you skip the rest of this paragraph. I have searched hither and yon for a polite description of the essence of abalone and I am afraid there is only one possible simile. It’s private – positively, undeniably, deeply, femininely private.”

I have all of A A Gill’s books and have reread some of them for more times than I can remember. I was therefore inconsolable when he passed away in 2016; no longer will there be new works from him. I paid a tribute to him in my own way, by penning a piece utilizing some of his methods, in particular the use of allusions to sex as a way get to one’s point across more memorably. My piece is in Chinese, but I must admit there are times when I dare imagine he would cross the language barrier and it’d be my turn to get a chuckle out of him.

如人飲水,冷暖自知 :當中共傀儡的體感

在最近的立法會,林鄭月娥在DQ周庭一事上面對著楊岳橋的連連質問,以她不在港為理由再三強調她沒參與踢周庭出局的決定後,插了一句:“有一些事情的決定權不在特首手中,我亦不會介入這些決定。”

林鄭這麽一說,我立馬就想到幾個月前,記者追問她逼學生看李飛直播是否等於給學生洗腦,她也同樣聲稱此事由教育局來操辦,她完全不知道有關安排,然後又多加了一句:“冇嘢可以強制,你瞇埋眼咪睇唔到囉。”

其實林鄭說這些事跟她沒關就可以了,何必加插後面的那些話。那些話一出,只會讓人懷疑她心裏也知道DQ周庭和逼學生看李飛直播是錯的,此其一。此其二,她這麽不慎言會讓人覺得決定權不在她手裏的東西一定很多,她感到很壓抑,所以才不得不圖個語言上的發泄。

雖然之前我一直寫文章批評林鄭甘心作中共傀儡 ;,但看到她屢次在眾目睽睽之下鬧情緒,我又開始同情她,原因很簡單:我能感同身受,因我曾被一個需要有國際化背景的人給他的企業裝門面的大陸商人看上,他把我招聘為他的秘書,我大概可以把他形容為一個郭文貴wannabe吧。其實他具體的勾當是什麽我到離職那天還是搞不懂,我的責任只是執行。在這樣的人下面工作是什麽樣的體會?我打個比喻,以前看過一個故事,有對夫婦在家裏設宴,其中一個客人誤以為供洗手用途的檸檬水是用來喝的,所以就把水喝了,女主人見狀也立馬拿起她的檸檬水來喝,因她不想客人尷尬。給我那個大陸老板做道具的感覺,就是明明知道檸檬水不是用來喝的,但也要去喝。而我之所以可憐林鄭是我能體會她做違心事的苦。當然,我比她幸運多了,我只是個small potato, 做得不自在,辭職很容易,她如果後悔做特首恐怕也不敢辭職,不怕有曾蔭權的下場嗎?

正當其他人在等著,靜觀鄧如欣DQ了周庭後會否跟何麗嫦DQ了梁天琦後一樣,很快就升職,我又想到一件往事。在決定是否辭去那份給大陸人當秘書的工作,我也有過掙扎,凡事有兩面的:雖然我只是他的門面,但在外人眼中,他是我的後台,所以我在外面得到的對待是不一樣。但隨著被逼喝檸檬水的次數越來越多,我快到崩潰邊緣。然後,有一天,我偶然看到大陸娛樂新聞媒體炒作某位香港女明星九十年代被富商塞高爾夫球的傳言(據說他總共塞了兩個,每塞一個給她一千萬)。因這是舊聞,為了增加可讀性,記者就在文中想象如果今天再給那位女星提這件事,她會有什麽反應:“你可以問她那棟豪宅的事情,也可以問她和(那位富商)的關系,她都會平平靜靜地說,像上元宮女說天寶舊事一般,痛癢都隔了層皮。但是,不管什麽時候,只要你拿這條(關於高爾夫球的)新聞去問(她),她必定臉色大變。心中之慘痛屈辱,應該是莫可名狀“ – 看到這裏,我就跟自己說,你想不想到你老了,別人說你有的東西都是靠喝檸檬水得來的?你現在還年輕,你辭職了又不是沒別的路可走。沒過多久我就辭職了。

幾個月前一單新聞又勾起我給那個大陸人當秘書的回憶: 在女拔萃和Princeton畢業、會考拿了十優的楊寶蓮獲委任為政治助理。別人都議論政府找到了高素質人才,我卻想起我前老板的一個舉動:他見到誰,都會告訴對方,我秘書是牛津大學畢業生!但我看到楊寶蓮新聞後才明白,大陸老板和塞高爾夫球的富商是同一心理!富商在乎的不是塞高爾夫球那個動作,而是他想別人知道,這樣等級的美人我也能這樣對待!同樣,我前老板其實一點也不在乎我腦袋裏裝了什麽知識,他只是想給人炫耀,這樣的人我能拿到手!想到這裏不得不替自己捏一把汗,真慶幸已脫離了他!

Categories: Thoughts on Writing

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