Friday, 13 July 2012

Old favourite

"I see hula-hula once on TV, hip go 'round like wash machine, wavy hands like flying bird ..." Amy Tan The Hundred Secret Senses
Olivia Yee is Chinese-American. Smart, amusing and prickly she is initially delighted to discover she has a half-sister in China who is coming to live with her family in America.  She is less than thrilled with the reality of Kwan who is short, unglamorous and so exuberant she virtually bounces off the walls. Kwan adores her little sister and insists on calling her 'Libby-ah' (the Chinese equivalent of  Hey Libby!) to Olivia's eternal annoyance.
I asked Kwan once how she'd like it if I introduced her to everyone as "Hey Kwan."  She slapped my arm, went breathless with laughter, then said hoarsely "I like, I like." Amy Tan The Hundred Secret Senses
The skewed dialogue between Libby and Kwan is so warm and funny that I've read this book many times just to spend time in their company.  Such is the power of good writing.

Caustic Cover Critic had an interesting post about cover art for novels with a Chinese theme.  Have fans, lanterns and cherry blossom become cliched?  What do you think?

12 comments:

Bonnie said...

I am not for sure how I feel about the use or overuse of the blossoms, fans, lanterns, etc. Most cover are designed to give a clue as to what the books are about. I suppose in a sense that is what they are accomplishing. Just a thought.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I adore Amy Tan and need to read more of her work. Have you read The Kitchen God's Wife? I loved that so much. I read it years ago and it still sticks with me.

And yes, I completely believe that blossoms and fans and lanterns needs to stop! It can't scream any louder "Asian story here!" then it does with all that stuff on it. I like it when they keep it very clean and simple, but I think all the traditional images of Asian culture can slow down. Wayyy down. :)

Lilac In May said...

A great book, it's mysterious and lovely. I feel ambivalent about the art work, on one hand, yes, cliched on the other as Bonnie says; it does it's job.

Anbolyn said...

Although I'm drawn to the typical Asian covers because they are usually so pretty, I feel that they are just a ploy. But isn't all cover design? At least the typical Asian covers are attractive and pleasing to the eye.
I have only ever read one Amy Tan book and that was ages ago - I should give her another go. I know so many people who adore her writing.

GG said...

I'm looking for a book for our book club, none of us have read Amy Tan before, this sounds ideal. GG

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

The Joy Luck Club is the only Amy Tan novel I've ever read, and your post made me want to explore her other novels. Olivia and Kwan sound like interesting characters, and I'm definitely going to look this novel up. :)

LizF said...

I'm another member of the 'only read The Joy Luck Club' club but having found a collection of Amy Tan's books in a charity shop, I intend to change that because I did enjoy it and her writing style.

The cover picture might be cliched but as Anbolyn says at least it is attractive and I much prefer it to what appears to be a recent trend of using the same picture on the covers of several very different books.

Cathy at PotterJotter said...

The dialogue between these two does sound fresh and quirky, and to be honest the motifs on the cover are a bit faded and don't really shout out their message for me, so I don't mind that. xCathy

Bellezza said...

I'm crazy about Amy Tan's work. The last novel of hers, Saving Fish From Drowning?, I haven't read though. I think Kitchen God's Wife is my favorite. She is so very honest in her writing, in my opinion, and what a fun photograph you have posted of her in the corner of your blog. (Great red lipstick!!!)

Jennifer Hartling said...

I love Amy Tan's work. She has a beautiful way with language. Afterwards I know I've learned so much about a different culture but it never feels as if I'm in school ;)

Vintage Reading said...

Bonnie, I'm quite sensitive to book covers, they shouldn't matter but somehow they do!

Natalie, yes! The Kitchen God's Wife was the first Tan I read and it is one of my favourites. I believe she has a new book out soon. Fans and blossoms are undeniably pretty but I think becoming overused.

Lilac in May, great to hear from Amy Tan fans. I believe that illness has meant she is not a prolific writer but a new book is coming soon.

Anbolyn, yup, I suppose even Persephone covers are cliched in their own way. Hope you get to read more Amy Tan.

GG, do let me know if your book group reads an Amy Tan novel and what you thought.

Darlyn, The Kitchen God's Wife is pretty fabulous, too!

Lizf, oh yes, I agree with you about same picture, different books. Especially around the Call the Midwife type books which are popular at the moment.

Cathy, yup, I like a bit of bold colour rather than pastels.

Bellezza, oh yes, Amy Tan looks very cool in her trench with jeans and red lipstick. She's a pretty cool writer, too!

Jennifer, I like what you said about her work making you learn about other cultures without feeling you are in school.

claire said...

I'd read that post by Caustic Cover Critic and found it so funny. One cover that I like that doesn't have any blossoms or women's backs or fans is Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian.

My favourite of Amy Tan's novels are the first two, The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife and my least favourite being the last, Saving Fish from Drowning. I find her content diminishing with every book. Or am I misjudging? I did love her memoir very much though.