where the writers are
The world of the immediate past

Yesterday, Husband and I drove from Tahoe to home. Actually, he drove and I slept. I nodded off somewhere east of Donner Pass, five minutes after we bought two lattes to go at the stand in front of the hardware store In Truckee. (Lattes with low-fat milk near a sign that said, "Sorry, we can no longer sell lids separately from garbage cans.") The latte was delicious but ineffective. Something in my brain shuts off as soon as an engine hits a certain RPM. I also conk out in airplanes, often before takeoff. Long journeys are reduced by many hours. This is a blessing, unless I am driving and you are the passenger.

I awoke three hours later because someone called me on my cell phone. By then we were on Highway 37, past Vallejo. Wow, fast trip from Tahoe. Very nice. Husband said traffic was terrible. Frank Sinatra was singing on Sirius radio, "Come fly with me!" Husband was still staring diligently at the road, dog was still snuggled in her bag on my lap. As I talked on the phone, I noticed telephone wire bisecting the view in my passenger window, and then the blot of a very large bird flew by. I looked back. A raven? No, not black, a chunky brown, a bird receding into the past along a wire that stayed parallel and ever-present in my window. Wait, wait, perhaps a hawk with rumpled feathers, perhaps a juvenile. A hawk, Husband confirmed, there were two, thus confirming that he took his eyes off the road. Then my eyes zoomed over an egret standing in the ditch. Or did the egret zoom past my eyes? Which perspective? Did the egret in the ditch notice cars? Black or brown or blue cars, or just cars, or just blots? Then my eyes and another egret in a ditch zoomed in opposite directions. What was so great about standing in a ditch?

Soon we merged onto Highway 80 South to San Francisco. And ever so quickly, after one latte, a phone call, four birds, and Sinatra, I was home, standing still and wide awake.

7 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

Sinatra, snapshots, and thank you

While I'm disappointed I still don't know where to buy lids of garbage cans separately from the cans, I am very happy you took the call in the car. Thank you for that. Also, I like the quotidian side-view mirror snapshot; I have quite a few of those from various road trips myself. Of course, yours is probably more valuable at auction.

Speaking of photos, your new photo on your main Author (Auteur?) page is beautiful! I love it. We're rolling out a full photo gallery function soon, so you'll be able to share and rotate photos more easily, although you seem to already know what you're doing. I'm impressed with your technical skill, in fact, you're on the upper end of the technologically savvy author curve for sure. Your account of needing a PhD to operate the hallway light switches at other people's houses notwithstanding. I have to tell you, your previous blog entry about that made me laugh out loud several times. (I wish there were a charming French word for "laugh out loud," but there isn't.)

So, the reason I decided to make my first public comment on the site here is that I noticed that you tagged your blog entry "birds," "driving," and "time travel." I really liked that you put "time travel," instead of something more obvious like "standing in a ditch" or "latte." We had a meeting here at the office about tagging, showing the entire list of tags created by authors thus far, and my eyes immediately went to "cats," "addiction," and "vampires." The list of tags looks like a very bad poem.

Anyway, we all can't thank you enough for all these insights into your life. I think your family and friends will treasure them someday. In your last blog entry, you made fun of the idea that people think you must sit around thinking up Buddhist platitudes while watching snow fall on trees, but what better Zen Koans than "Did I zoom past the egret or did it zoom past me?" and "What is so great about standing in a ditch?" And accomplished while listening to Francis Albert Sinatra and taking snapshots to share with everyone. That's my kind of literary icon.

Ivory Madison

Founder & CEO, redroom.com

Comment Bubble Tip

Pouffer de rire? Pouffant

Pouffer de rire? Pouffant de rire?


Ooh la la!

Comment Bubble Tip

French laughing loudly

Guffeaux?? I do love the word guffaw, but it's like 'guffaw, hee haw' somehow. I think even the French would not be offended at 'guffeaux'. (I only know a bit of french wine and perfume so I'm not even sure if there IS an AW sound.)

Anyway, this is a great site. I saw the article in the Chronicle yesterday and had the opportunity to check the site out today and since Amy Tan is my most favorite author (and she was so stunning in the gypsy Hmong outfit??) on the cover page, I wanted to check out her site first.

I've been a member of a book club for 16 years. (Same women, mostly. Only a few have shuffled in and out over the years.) We have read four of Amy Tan's novels. I just love her writing style and images and feelings and grand humor, even in the most serious stories.

Good luck in this venture Ms. Madison. I think you look just like Uma Thurman in the Chronicle picture %-))

Comment Bubble Tip

Hi Amy

I am a bird in a ditch. I like it here because water runs in here so there is bugs and frogs and other tasty things. Next time get outer the car and get on down here in the ditch with us birds. Fun here and tons to eat. Happy Gnu Year!

Comment Bubble Tip

Saving Fish from Drowning

I read the review of the audio of SAVING FISH FROM DROWNING and stopped my husband from creating mP3 files until I'd listened to enough of it to decide whether I wanted to hear the rest. The unkind comments from Publishers Weekly include: "Alone in a studio, Tan does not do justice to her own work. Words melt when Tan drops her voice at the end of sentences—and even in the middle. It sounds as if she is rocking back and forth in front of the microphone, or perhaps looking down and away from the mike to study the text." I listened to enough to know that I disagreed with that review, and my husband has now converted the whole book. So maybe you're not a pro at recorded books; to me that's a distinct advantage. I like it that I'm hearing BiBi is telling me the story in her own voice; it would be distracting if she/you tried to invent voices for different characters. Because the writing is so good, I know when Walter is talking, or Marlena or Harry. Hope that review didn't sting too much. I'm listening to 30-minute segments via my SwimP3 player as I do my laps, and your lovely narration makes my exercise go swimmingly.

Comment Bubble Tip

Thank you Amy Tan!

Within the last two weeks I read THE BONESETTERS DAUGHTER, SAVING FISH FROM DROWNING, A HUNDRED SECRET SENSES AND THE KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE. I am hoping that you continue to be inspired to write and that I get to enjoy more books by you. They took me far away when I needed it most...such a feast! So enjoyable!

Thanks so much!

Rita Hernandez
Hermitage Tennessee

Comment Bubble Tip


Ms Tan,

I recieved your autobiography as a Christmas present. I had no idea who you were, but as I began to read your book I also began to fall in love with your writing style. Then I went to my school library and picked up The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, both of which I enjoy very much.
I finished The Opposite of Fate and The Joy Luck Club around the same time, and I thought it was very funny when I would be in the middle of either book and be confused as to whether I was reading the autobio or the fiction novel. I enjoyed seeing the resemblance between the two books, but also understood that your fiction stories are only somewhat based on your life's events. I also must admit that I am doing my English Biography report on you, which I can imagine feels strange to hear (even though I know it's happened before), but the prompt is what inspired you to write, not all of the occurences and accomplishments of your life.
I'm not going to ask you what your inspirations were; I think you answered that plenty of times in your book, in many different ways with many different answers. However, I am interested in how or if you hope to motivate the younger generations of American children to become interested in reading and world issues. Hey, if neither of these things are important to you, then no worries. But I am interested in what you have to say.

Thank you for your time,
Hannah Nichols, 15