“I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever.” — Amy Tan
Once again, I am in the middle of a new book.
Each time I read a book by Amy Tan, I always feel quite disturbed because she is known for Joy Luck Club (yes, that “other book”) and the strange thing is, people who know the Joy Luck Club have not actually read the Joy Luck Club. These range from pageant winners who tearfully name it their favourite book every year in the Chinese Community of Vancouver (a fact related by Will), random guy friends who regard it gingerly as the ‘girly’ book and relegate it to a pile of second rate emotive books, as if Amy Tan is an author destined to be praised, but never to be reread.
But I have always had an affection for her works- The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses – they stir a secret longing in me, and will me to a world which is so distant yet so near. Story-telling is at its best, with myth and reality conmingled in the simplicity of a short story – the swans are always representative, the fish are speaking words, the spirits come alive from their graves and dictate how their stories are told. Far from being relegated to ‘Chinese American literature’, I think Amy Tan is one of the best contemporary authors in our current age, and she stirs up secret fears, the characters uniting in an absurd sort of ‘reality mosaic’ that is testimony to the complexity and rootedness of modern day living.
And in a little way, admitably, I always feel a little stronger when I read her books.
“I had on a beautiful red dress, but what I saw was even more valuable. I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind. ”
“No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached.”
— Amy Tan
“‘Now you see,’ said the turtle, drifting back into the pond, ‘why it is useless to cry. Your tears do not wash away your sorrows. They feed someone else’s joy. And that is why you must learn to swallow your own tears.’ “
— Amy Tan
“Sure I loved him – too much. And he loved me, only not enough. I just want someone who thinks I’m number one in his life. I’m not willing to accept emotional scraps anymore.”
— Amy Tan
The book I am currently reading- Saving Fish from Drowning, by Amy Tan.
The synopsis of the book begins with a quote:
“A pious man explained to his followers: ‘It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. “Don’t be scared,” I tell those fishes. “I am saving you from drowning.” Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”
— Amy Tan
More on the book as on Amazon:
Twelve American tourists join an art expedition that begins in the Himalayan foothills of China – dubbed the true Shangri-La – and heads south into the jungles of Burma. But after the mysterious death of their tour leader, the carefully laid plans fall apart, and disharmony breaks out among the pleasure-seekers as they come to discover that the Burma Road is paved with less-than-honorable intentions, questionable food, and tribal curses.
And then, on Christmas morning, eleven of the travelers boat across a misty lake for a sunrise cruise – and disappear.
Drawing from the current political reality in Burma and woven with pure confabulation, Amy Tan’s picaresque novel poses the question: How can we discern what is real and what is fiction, in everything we see? How do we know what to believe? Saving Fish from Drowning finds sly truth in the absurd: a reality TV show called Darwin’s Fittest, a repressive regime known as SLORC, two cheroot-smoking twin children hailed as divinities, and a ragtag tribe hiding in the jungle – where the spritesof disaster known as Nats lurk, as do the specters of the fabled Younger White Brother and a British illusionist who was not who he was worshipped to be.
With her signature “idiosyncratic, sympathetic characters, haunting images, historical complexity, significant contemporary themes, and suspenseful mystery” (Los Angeles Times), Amy Tan spins a provocative and mesmerizing tale about the mind and the heart of the individual, the actions we choose, the moral questions we might ask ourselves, and above all, the deeply personal answers we seek when happy endings are seemingly impossible.
But in a way, I always felt the plot is never the point for authors like Amy Tan, Kate Atkinson. It is as if she finished the book and someone tried to fit a New York Times version of a blurb in.
Anyway, I just started and it is as addictive as my neighbour’s hawthorn sweets, haha! I just finished Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Tragedy of Korosko, and have generally bad things to say about it, though Sir Arthur is pretty much one of my top favourite authors, having penned the marvellous collection of Sherlock Holmes which captivated me for months. I still intend to finish every one of Sir Arthur’s works in hope I might find a gem somewhere.
I had a lovely, lovely conversation with Beansprouts last night! (Do you ever feel disoriented reading this blog dear Beansprouts, when the conversation moves from addressing you one moment and a silent audience the next) He shared with me his favourite Monet painting, and I absolutely adore it, I think I gasped a little when I saw it. Titled “Snow at Argenteuil”, it is the largest of than eighteen works Monet painted of his home commune of Argenteuil while it was under a blanket of snow during the winter of 1874-1875.
From Wikipedia (don’t you just love Wikipedia!):
Most of Monet’s Snow at Argenteuil pictures from the winter of 1874-1875 were painted from locations close to the house on the boulevard Saint-Denis (now number 21 boulevard Karl Marx) into which Monet and his family had just moved. This particular painting shows the boulevard Saint-Denis looking in the direction of the junction with the rue de la Voie-des-Bans, with the river Seine out of sight to the rear, and the local railway station behind Monet’s back as he painted.
And a cute little section on Manet, who is apparently also a distinguished painter (that I have not heard of):
“In December 1879 the painting was acquired from Monet by Théodore Duret. Recalling a conversation with the artist Édouard Manet, Duret years later reported that, ‘One winter he [Manet] wanted to paint a snow scene. I had in my possession just such a piece from Monet. After seeing it, he said “It is perfect! I would not know how to do better”, whereupon he gave up painting snow.’”
Oh dear, but I feel like Manet so often in so, so many things!
On another note, I love receiving prizes! I’m a little girl again. : )
I also bought myself a present…my first Shirley Temple skirt! I fell in love with the print …and it was such a quaint design with coffee cups and newspaper print that I so wanted to wear it and go to such and such a coffee shop and have that same cup of tea. The same way Agatha Christie characters dream of meeting their long lost friends in little tea shops and the exact tea cup they would drink from (on another note…have I mentioned that Agatha Christie has the most morbid and delicious fascination for tea cups? Her knowledge of tea cups is formidable).
On a side note, I have a new mobile number which I left in my fb. I know it has been forever, but since I am relatively unimportant I hope it wasn’t a hindrance!
The office is giving us a corporate discount for iphones 3gs, but I am not sure if I need one, if you know what I mean.