WOOHOO! I met some of my idols the other day, as regular readers know. Your humble narrator spent a weekend in a fab hotel (the Indigo) in Shanghai hanging out with superstar author Amy Tan, also known as Maxine Hong Kingston.
No, wait. They’re two different people. Or are they?
Sexy luscious Amy tells me that ALL Chinese-American female authors are considered 100 percent interchangeable.
She told me she met Margaret Thatcher at a party, who went on at great length about “how courageous” her book was.
Amy was baffled until the British leader added: “I was SO moved when I read Wild Swans.”
Amy replied: ‘Yes, didn’t Jung Chang do a wonderful job?’
Without batting an eyelid, the Iron Lady continued: “Yes, she did.”
In other words, they did the British Thing and elegantly skated over the embarrassing social error. Had they not done this, Mrs Thatcher would have had to kill herself in the traditional British way (falling onto a sharpened umbrella, eating British food, etc).
Amy, 60, said she was regularly mistaken for all the other writers of Chinese-American sagas, Jung Chang, Maxine Hong Kingston, Iris Chang and even Lisa See, which surprised me. (Lisa, pic below, is pretty much an all-American blonde.)
Sitting opposite us at the hotel breakfast was Matt Groening, genius behind The Simpsons.
Matt in real life is just like he is on the page: smart, witty and sharp as a knife.
He said all cartoonists were also considered interchangeable.
He told me: “One guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, you’re a cartoonist? Wow, can you draw Garfield for me?’”
I told him that I go on book tours to places in Asia where people don’t “get” the concept of authors signing books. “People rush up to me with Harry Potter books to autograph. I sign them. Why not?”
Not only do authors get confused with each other, we get mixed up with our characters. In the detective novels I write, my character Mr Wong is working on his own book. I regularly get letters saying: “I don’t like your writing, but I like Mr Wong’s. Where can I buy his book?”
This happens all the time to Matt, too.
If you look up “quotes from Matt Groening” on the Internet, most of the results are Homer Simpson quotes written by TV scriptwriters.
Shortly before this breakfast, all three of us had been interviewed by a Shanghai magazine, City Weekend, which said it would run features on us in which our quotes would alternate with quotes from characters in our stories.
While we were having this conversation, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe appeared on TV sharing a similar story about his recent tour of Asia.
He said someone rushed up to him in Japan with a photograph of Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood.
Radcliffe tried to explain that it wasn’t a picture of him, but the autograph hunter spoke no English.
So Radcliffe signed the photo with the words:
“Look, I am NOT Elijah Wood, OKAY?”
By the end of the weekend, City Weekend magazine had been delivered to us. I picked it up. Yes, they’d mixed up the quotes from me and my fictional character. (The interviewer was v intelligent, so I suspect the sub-editors were to blame.)
The weird thing is that sometimes authors become characters in each others’ work.
Amy told me she once appeared as a cartoon character in an episode of The Simpsons.
“That was the one time I didn’t mind being depicted as ‘yellow-skinned’,” she laughed.
IN OTHER NEWS….
To further his argument that air travel produces better scenery than lift travel, Grandpa sent me a slideshow of gorgeous aerial pix taken from a microlight aircraft. Here’s one of them.
If you want to see the whole slideshow, click here and use the controls below the first image to navigate.
THANKS TO Patrick Cranley for pointing out that Tina Kanagaratnam’s name was spelt wrong in the Rock Bottom Remainders video in the previous post. Actually, Patrick, I noticed after it had gone up on YouTube, so it was too late to change. I did send her a note to apologize. But it should be illegal for any one person to have the letter “a” SIX TIMES in their name!