Showing posts with label Satire. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Satire. Show all posts

Friday, February 21, 2014

Guest Post: Nathaniel Sewell on Writing "Fishing for Light"

My inspiration for writing Fishing for Light
Have you ever walked about a museum and stopped and closely examined a painting and admired the brushstrokes, the colors, and the hidden symbolism? For example, I love Salvador Dali’s masterworks and his surrealism. In fact, there are several that inspired me to write Fishing for Light. I have sat down and marveled at The Ecumenical Council, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, and of course, the Clocks. Perhaps these links to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida will be helpful:
The last link is for, Galaciadalacidesoxiribunucleicacid or ‘Homage to Crick and Watson’ that was the one that hit me emotionally the hardest. If you read the painting’s description, the key for me are the last words, “all who suffer”. The reason is I have a strong interest in the science of Epigenetics or how life choices, our environment and trauma alter our genetic code.
My first novel, Bobby’s Socks was a tough story about child sexual abuse and the epigenetic link to suicide. As you might imagine, I know what it feels like to be traumatized. But I prefer to laugh, be weird, so Fishing for Light is a satire. The common link between the two novels are the main characters; they had a life trauma, Bobby was attacked, and Eddie the sudden death of his father. That is not funny.
But what is satirical, is that 21st Century society was swirling around Eddie. Now that idea can be wacky, and surreal. Why? Because Eddie was unaware that he had magic DNA, and he was destined to fight Professor Quan’s accidental creation, the evil Ms. Prosperina! But the life trauma, it altered Eddie’s destiny, and switched on the wrong gene instructions. So Professor Quan and Captain Lovins have to fix the problem because Ms. Prosperina intended to alter humanity in part by expanding her Starry Eyed Coffee Hut empire. By the way, that’s why you should always drink your coffee black.
I think I should share some of the novels hidden themes, it might improve the reading experience. I created a triad, Eddie represented a son and the Millennial Generation, Professor Quan represented a father figure and personal responsibility and Captain Lovins, a NAVY SEAL, was the defender of the weak and in the military, they are referred to as, ‘ghosts’. And it is important to note, SEAL’s live by a code, I recommend you look it up and read it. So we have a father, son and ghost for those who recognize a Christian theme. But I also have Buddhism and Hinduism references hidden within the story.
And Ms. Prosperina, a Chimera, she represented that hidden government and the organized conspiracy slithering into every aspect of society, even down to inventorying our base DNA code, so she can control humanity. If you think that is a crazy idea, I recommend you read my blog post - and she had the power to shape-shift into some really nasty religious symbols. She even quietly helped fund a secret IRS unit that was trying to track down Professor Quan. Her name, Prosperina, came from Greek and Roman mythology, and the tale of Pandora’s Box. After Pandora opened the box, what got left inside? Hope. And of course, Professor Quan and Captain Lovins stole the Hope Diamond. He needed it for his experiments.
Yes, I have a lot going on within the story on purpose, remember, this is a satire and one of my influences for writing Fishing for Light was Salvador Dali. I think good literature is about an issue beyond us. I think art should move our emotions and trigger us to stop and think about this world we live. And to wonder if there is a higher power beyond us that we cannot see, but only sense. But then again, Professor Quan does find pure love, but think about it, to have love you also need to have hope. Right?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I can not write a post on Chinese biographer, Jung Chang, and Chinese-American author, Amy Tan, without mentioning Singapore born and raised, Kevin Kwan, and his take on satiric romp-literature in the form of his first novel, Crazy Rich Asians.  Now that was a mouthful of a sentence.  In any regard, I’ve wanted to read this book since I ran across it this past summer at my local bookstore.  The glittery gold cover and downy pink-colored lettering just screamed DRAMA LIKE NO OTHER.  Top that with the title itself and your forever-fettered Kdrama (Korean drama) obsessor was ready to peel open its pages to absorb all of the melodrama, fashion, money, and behind-closed-doors corruption of Asian millionaires and their spoiled heirs/esses.  Quite simply, I was ready to get my Kdrama fix in literary form, despite Kwan's cast being Chinese as opposed to Korean.  Should something that insignificant even matter.

This juicy piece of amusing fiction delivered just what it intended to, with the exception of a slap-across-the-face scene served by an overprotective, old money mother to her low-income son’s girlfriend.  That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.  And in many ways the devious antics displayed in the book were soft, as opposed to the cruel and downright trifling excursions played out by rivals in Kdramas.  But you know what, that’s not what this book is about.  Hardly.

I like to think that Crazy Rich Asians is a percussion strike between Kwan’s insider view of elite Asians and Jackie Collins's Western glitzy glam.  And to be honestly, while I love Collins, Kwan’s writing is far less diarist and cliché.  Which brings me to another point as to why I liked this book.  Crazy Rich Asians moved away from those stereotypical/cliché numbers we’ve become accustomed to by Asian-enthused novels.  This isn’t a book about an immigrant experience or a pro-democratic movement over China.  Matter-of-fact, it doesn’t even take place in China--specifically.

Aside from the opening character introduction taking place in 1980s London, Crazy Rich Asians starts in New York.  It's here that our main couple, Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young, share a quiet moment over tea in their favorite spot.  They are professional educators, matched by a mutual associate.  Nevertheless, the discussion over tea seems simple: Nick’s best friend’s wedding will take place in Singapore and he would like Rachel to attend and meet his family.  Rachel comes from a modest family/background, and is not even partially aware of Nick’s wealthy background and family.  She might’ve picked up on small, curious bits concerning Nick’s "resources", but the majority of her perception of him is that he is frugal and hardworking (besides being sweet to her).  Therefore, there is nothing for Rachel to assume, regarding Nick’s family.  Yet, she is tentative about meeting them and Nick's friends for the summer.

And for good reason.  Minutes after Rachel and Nick share a closing kiss, their conversation is captured by a nosy patron who recognized Nick.  Said patron emails her sister, who in turn calls her best friend in Singapore, who then texts eight different friends.  Eventually the news of Nick bringing a girl home to Singapore spreads like a virus across powerful social circles.

The proceeding chapter showers us with Nick’s uppity mother, Eleanor Young, receiving some unsettling information that Nick is heading to Singapore with a Taiwanese-American gold-digger (that‘s how far Rachel‘s “dossier” has stretched from the truth).  That’s three demeaning strikes and two lies already against Rachel before she even sets foot on a plane to Australia.  The only truth is that she is American.  She is later coined an ABC which means American Born Chinese.  However, this does not make Rachel’s situation any better as Eleanor use every available force of power that she has to put an end to Rachel and Nick’s relationship (the snubs begin with Eleanor leaving Singapore before their arrival).  The inventive cohorts that support Eleanor’s cause do most of her dirty work.  Of course she couldn't be bothered to roll around in the mud.  However, she is very present as a villainesque mother, drenched in her obsession with maintaining control, wealth, and her definition of the Young family image.

While Rachel and Nick's A plot takes up the ground of the book, Kwan gifts us with several B plots that increases the book‘s focus on wealth and the personal turmoil and baggage it creates.  One B plot consists of Nick’s fashionista cousin, Astrid, and her martial woes.  While another focuses on Nick’s other cousin, Eddie, and the strife he puts his children through as he struggles with his desire to appear seamless before his family and peers.

And believe me when I say that there is more to be had from this book.  Much, much more.
Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte

Crazy Rich Asians was just an entertaining read all around.  I enjoyed it a lot more than I anticipated, considering how I had a hard time establishing the multitude of side characters with their names, families, and purposes.  I probably struggled the most here, whereas some reviewers didn’t exactly like Kwan’s use of dropping big brand fashion names.  Nonetheless, after their fifth appearance, I started to understand who side characters like Daisy Foo and Ling Cheh represented in the scheme of the novel.  I also sputtered along with Kwan’s mixture of English and Romanized Chinese.  Not because they were present, but because they were footnoted.  This usually meant I had to cut myself from the narrative to spot the translation.  In nonfiction this doesn’t seem to bother me, but in fiction I realized that it did.  I would’ve preferred if he integrated the translations into the text by means of simply having the characters translate it themselves as a form of emphasis, or have characters respond accordingly so that it translates clearly to the reader.  

Nonetheless, nothings takes away how absorbing and fun Kwan’s novel is.  His writing didn’t slow down as he switched between revolving plots on the fly.  Each main character he employed drove me with a smile through their stories, as well as hot moments of rage (even the genuine Rachel drove me crazy at moments).  I don’t recall being able to put the book down after my initial adjustment to his style.  While it’s too late to label this a beach read, I still encourage anyone interested in peeking into the screwball lives of elite and powerful Asian families to pick up this book.  That way Kwan can present us with another book because Crazy Rich Asians will leave you wanting more.


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