Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?

Amy Tan: Where does creativity hide?
http://go.ted.com/NNPduw

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club and many other wonderful novels and stories, is one of my major writing heroes.

She has the magic.

When her Chinese immigrant characters speak Chinese immigrant Engrish, I hear my Si-fu (Chinese martial arts master and surrogate mother for 29 years and counting) talking to me:

“Lawla!  Did you know, you reary have a velly big bottom!  How come?  We go to eat now!” 

Perhaps because of my long immersion in Chinese culture, I fall into Tan’s novels and happily drown in them.  I melt into them, I swim in them, and when they end, I find myself gasping in the thin air that lingers after the book is closed, or listening to the faint babble of rising and falling Cantonese in another room, longing to know what they are talking about.

Maybe my big bottom.  Reary.

My Si-fu’s father, known to us students as Dai Si-fu (meaning Great Teacher), always promised to teach me Chinese.  It generally went something like this:

Dai Si-fu:  “(something in Chinese), now YOU say same ting.”

Me:  “(what he said)”

Dai Si-fu:  (falling on the floor, despite his eighty-something years, laughing hysterically) “Hahaha!  You just said, ‘Rady’s vagina’! Hahaha!”

Si-fu runs down the five stairs into the taichi studio:  “Fadder!  (Indignant Chinese scolding)!”

To me:  “Lawla!  I am so solly!  He awrays do dat!”

I try to maintain composure but it doesn’t work, and I fall apart laughing.  Si-fu vibrates with semi-genuine indignity and flounces out of the room, flinging behind her:  “Ten more minutes, then we go to eat!”

As soon as she is gone, Dai Si-fu and I meet eyes and crack up until we can’t breathe.

“Ten more minutes, then we go to eat,” he flounces out of the studio.  I’m dying of conflict between betraying my Si-fu and delicious conspiracy.

To watch this video of Amy Tan explaining her muse is like having a private audience with the Chinese Five Elements: Earth, Wind, Metal, Fire, Wood.  These are the sources that make up the world we live in, our bodies and minds being a microcosm of the macrocosm.

When I read Amy Tan, I constantly see and feel these elements dancing in their natural order.  They are inseparable from any person of Chinese ancestry.  Everyone has them, but they are as clear in the Chinese aura as the color red.

To watch and listen to her, I understand.  The color red, the Five Elements.  The fact that I am “klazy.”  The simple paradox.  Paradox made simple, in no easy lessons. 

As for her personal muse…be sure to watch carefully all the way to the end.  It’s in the bag.

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15 Comments

  1. This is such a fun post to read!! I watched the video…she is something else alright…just love her talk and your post!

    Reply
  2. Funny and affectionate post, Laura!

    Reply
  3. Loved Amy Tan’s TedTalk and your story. Glad I watched to the end and met her Muse. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. You are hilarious! This bus so funny. Please go see a doctor and be around a long long time to write more funny hilarious posts like this one. Sorry I decided to leave all the annoying commas out! Love and hugs.

    Reply

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