Friday, March 31, 2006

Amy Tan

One good thing about moving to Greensboro has been the high quality speakers who come through this town for various lecture series. I was very fortunate last night to drive 10 minutes to Guilford College. They are completing a 3 year focus on Asian Studies, as well as the current 1 year focus on Spirituality. (Guilford is a Quaker school - and a very good one at that.)

The Opposite of Fate: An Evening with Amy Tan was the billing. I have been a big Amy Tan fan since The Joy Luck Club first came out. I have become even more enamored with her after Hubby and I decided to adopt a baby from China. I enjoy her writing immensely, and especially appreciate the understanding she provides as a Chinese American.

Ms. Tan was far better than I imagined. She was quite entertaining, engaging, personable, funny, and poignant. (And I must say she was wearing an incredibly beautiful asymetrical purple wrap skirt with a rich purple sweater and throw - I spent too much time wondering where she bought such an incredible outfit.) The Opposite of Fate is essentially the story of her life and how it influenced her writing. Her father was a Baptist minister who earned his living as an electrical engineer. He died while she was a young teen, in the same year her older brother also died (both of brain tumors). Her mother, quite an interesting character, continued to be a major influence in her life, as witnessed in her writing. In both her own life and in her writing, she has mixed the realities of life (and sometimes the very difficult ones) with humor and compassion.

One of my favorite stories came from an explanation she offered about the line "strength of the wind" in The Joy Luck Club. She ran across Cliff Notes of her book (much to her surprise) and was interested how much symbolism they placed into this phrase. She explained that it came from a Chinese phrase which literally means, "Loud farts don't smell, but the silent ones are deadly." It certainly provides some insight into the term, "breaking wind." (Sure hope my family of origin appreciates this story.)

I was also interested in the writers' band with which she has been involved for a number of years. They perform only for charity - literacy programs to be exact. Fellow band members include Stephen King (are you reading, Edgy Mama?), Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver and others.

The evening ended by a question about her "muse." I had noticed when she first came to the podium that she had a large purse with her. I thought - "Couldn't someone have taken that for her?" She placed the purse behind the podium. Upon being questioned about her "muse," Ms. Tan said she brought her muse in case she needed inspiration. She then opened the large purse, and a tiny and very cute little terrier trotted around the stage, to applause from the full theater. She sure seems like a fun person.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Back in Asheville for a couple days to visit. It's good to be back in a town where my average, everyday wear looks downright sophisticated and stylish compared to much of the hippie population. Haven't felt so good about my appearance in months!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

what should women read?

I ran across an interesting excerpt recently about women reading novels. It is from James' Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, first published in England in 1766. It reads,

"...there seem to be very few, in the style of Novel, that you can read with safety, and yet fewer that you can read with advantage. - What shall we say of certain books, which we are assured (for we have not read them) are in their nature so shameful, in their tendency so pestiferous, and contain such rank treason against the royalty of Virtue, such horrible violation of all decorum, that she who can bear to peruse them must in her soul be a prostitute, let her reputation in life be what it will. But can it be true - say, ye chaste stars, that with innumerable eyes inspect the midnight behaviour of mortals - can it be true, that any young woman, pretending to decency, should endure for a moment to look on this infernal brood of futility and lewdness?"

A little different from any sermon I've ever given. I'd probably only put Ann Coulter books in this category - can you, dear readers, think of any others?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nanny McPhee - the movie

Since my children saw the previews during the Holidays, I have promised that I would take them to see Nanny McPhee. I have gotten to the point I really hate most kid or family movies, but this one was starring Colin Firth and Emma Thompson - so of course I told them I would take them. (And I was quite suprised to see Sir Derek Jacoby in a small and silly role.) It's been out for a month, but we finally made it yesterday. And I must say that Colin still looks absolutely dishy, even wearing a velvet kelly green jacket with a red velvet vest. (Yes, this is a fairy tale story.)

The premise - Mr. Brown (Colin) is a widower with seven of the wildest children one has ever seen. They pride themselves in getting rid of nannies, and especially in record setting time. The agency refuses to send any more, but thankfully a new nanny magically appears (Emma Thompson - and barely recognizable - if you get an Oscar for making yourself ugly, she would easily score in this get-up). Kelly McDonald plays the scullery maid, Evangeline, and is her always luminescent self (I would LOVE to see her in more, and bigger, roles - far too talented for those of us in the States to be missing out on her.) Another issue in the Brown household is that a wealthy, opinionated, and self-important aunt (Angela Lansbury) financially supports the house. She has insisted that Mr. Brown marry within the month (because those wild kids need a new mom) or he loses the money - thus breaking up the family.

It's a fairy tale, so the story is predictable. I anticipated the ending, but it was done far more beautifully than I could have imagined. It's sweet, hopeful, and has a good message for children. (unlike Chronicles of Narnia, where I felt like the message was go and kill anyone you think is evil) At the end of the credits, a line simply said "This film is dedicated to all who are truly naughty. And to their children."

BINGO. Perfect movie for my family...

My grade - B-

Wednesday, March 01, 2006