Shelah's Reviews > The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
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's review
Jul 30, 09

I remember back in college learning about different kinds of literary criticism. We talked about biographical criticism, and my professor wrote it off, saying that it was hackneyed. But I'm regular reader of People magazine (even Star from time to time!) and I love knowing all of the interesting details about my favorite authors' lives. So Amy Tan's The Opposite of Fate was a treat in many ways; it's a collection of writings Tan has done over the last several decades about her own life, about writing, and about various reactions to her books. It heartily satisfied the voyeur in me. I learned that Tan has an affinity for cats, that she's had more strange stuff happen in her life than I could ever dream (nightmare?) about happening in mine, that she had a complicated but rewarding relationship with her mother (something I had gleaned from her writing). But she also talked about having scholars find symbolism in her books that she never intended, about her belief in ghosts (and rituals for ridding her apartment from them), and great writing tips. I loved how she went into detail about starting her career as a fiction author at the advanced age of 37, which gives me hope that some day I may be able to write something longer than a blog post. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book came from her introduction to a collection of the best American short stories, for which she served as the editor. She talked about how she read each story from start to finish. If she fell asleep in bed while reading, she'd start over from the beginning the next day. If the phone rang, she'd start from the beginning when she hung up. Now that's a lot of starting from the beginning. I get interrupted at least a thousand times a day (ten times at least while writing just this post). Maybe the key to being a good fiction writer beginning in one's thirties is not to have four kids....

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