Look again at what Amy Tan has to say about writing in The Opposite of Fate (2003). There are many wonderful essays in that collection. My Hong Kong Australian coachees very much enjoyed “Arrival Banquet”, which I shared with them as a possible supplementary text for the HSC “Journeys” unit. Ben said it was SO Chinese! And Tan is indeed a great mediator between cultures, with a humorous but empathic eye.
She also has a sharp pen when needed. Irony is implicit in the quasi-magical narrative method of Saving Fish from Dying (2005) with its multifaceted examination of cultural (mis)understandings and questioning of tourism — among other things. “Writing with stinging irony about oppression, genocide, culture clashes, religion, media spin, and corruption, [Tan] slyly considers the unintended consequences of everything from a thwarted seduction to a war based on lies.” (Donna Seaman in Booklist 1 Sep 2005.)
A couple of quotes:
I, too, thought she was an ideal guide. She had an aura of assurance matched by competence. This is the best combination, much better than nervousness and
incompetence, as in the last guide. The worst, I think, is complete confidence matched by complete incompetence. I have experienced it all too often, not just in tour guides, but in marketing consultants and art experts at auction houses. And you will find it in plenty of world leaders. Yes, and they all lead you to the same place, trouble. — p. 103.
Well, guess who?
Wendy was lost. “KMT?”
“Kuomintang army,” Marlena explained.
“Right.” Wendy nodded, though she had no idea with which side the Kuomintang army had been. She wrongly assumed they were the Communists instead of the Nationalists. You see how it is in American high schools: almost nothing is said about the Second World War in China, save for the American Flying Tigers, because that sounds romantic. — p. 129.
29 December 2005
I am adding Saving Fish from Drowning to my Best of 2005: it is one of the best novels I have read all year, a mature, wise and at times funny work. It invites comparison, in some respects, with Nicholas Jose’s Original Face. While I enjoyed Nick’s book — and it is very good — Amy Tan is even richer. Do read it.