Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"The Opposite of Fate" by Amy Tan

After gnawing desperately away at the cold, dead nut that was Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Living to Tell the Tale, Amy Tan's memoirs were a breath of fresh air. What was surprising to me, at least at first, was that there weren't an ordered, chronological memoir like Marquez's - actually they were a collection of musings, e-mails, speeches, and essays that Amy Tan wrote separately and then compiled into this volume. This resulted in a few facts overlapping and being repeated in different chapters as if they were new.

She writes about her earlier life, like how her mother was always threatening to kill herself, and how her father and older brother both died of brain tumours within months of each other, and how they were always moving to a new house every six to twelve months.

She also writes about her writing, and, in a very hilarious chapter, how university and high school students have pinned her as this literary genious who's put all this secret imagery and symbolism into her books when she has really done no such thing. It's comforting - sometimes I feel like I'll never reach the greatness of the century's greatest authors, but now I know that all the symbolism and subtle socio-political arguments brought up by these books were actually put in there by overzealous interpretations of grad students.

Also, she's in a rock band - the Rock Bottom Remainders, with these others writers like Stephen King! That's fantastic! Later on she recounts how she helped bring the Joy Luck Club film adaptation to the screen, and how she's dealt with being labeled a "minority writer".

All in all, it was a lot like Stephen King's On Writing, in that it gave details about her life, as well as invaluable writing tips. Because, honestly, for an author, their lives are about writing.

But now that Amy Tan's book is over and down with, I'm on to Hemingway.

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