Moments ago, I finished Lisa See’s astonishing Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. It is a lovely work, rich with authenticity. Magic words like hers hint of the invisible realms here among us; they gather sounds from who-knows-where and convey truth never before told. These words become the songs we can’t forget, the stories we call our own.
This is the tale of two Chinese women, two laotong, or “old sames,” betrothed in friendship nearly all their lives – lives shared at a distance by the exchange of secret writing known as nu shu. Isolated, afraid, bound by status and duty, they speak to one another via the brush strokes written on a fan shuttled between their farflung homes. And in these few, rare marks, they tell each other everything.
She had not written to leave a good name for a hundred generations. She had written to tell her friends of her thoughts and emotions, and they had written her in the same way.
Reading these words earlier today I thought instantly of this. And you. And me. And the thousands and millions like us, who write because it opens the heart on a hard day, or eases the hurt on a lonely night. We write by ourselves and for ourselves, an audience of one that is by this very reading an audience of two, sharing a secret, silent song that is no different from those on the hidden and long-forgotten fans, because we are indeed the same, we are all the same, and our song is the same never-ending song.
It is for now a close cousin to my favorite book, which I wish with all my heart that you too would read.