Sunday, February 05, 2006

Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning

Sometimes reading, and the guilt that goes along with lying in bed for days on end with no more ambition than to finish one novel in order to get to the next, has uses not obvious in physical reality.

For instance, does reading perhaps prepare us for death by allowing for an experience of living outside of the body or occupying another's thoughts.

Tan's book prompted the notion and a memorable passage:
"I was stuck in these thoughts, unable to leave my breathless body, until I realized that my breath was not gone but surrounding me, buoying me upward. ...every single breath, the sustenance I took and expelled out of both habit and effort...had accumulated like a savings account. And everyone else's as well, it seemed, inhalations of hopes, exhalations of disappointment. Anger, love, pleasure, hate--they were all there, the bursts, puffs, sighs, and screams. The air I had breathed, I now knew, was composed not of gases but of the density and perfume of emotions. The body had been merely a filter, a censor. I knew this at once, without question, and I found myself released, free..."

However, all in all, I was disappointed with the novel. This has happened to me before with Tan. I think KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE was the only book that met its promise. Seems like Tan has insight and experiences to share, talent to do it, but something is missing in the follow through. Sustaining a level worthy of the ideas may be the problem. Curiously, a term from her latest "insufficient excess" comes to mind "too much that was never enough."

I really liked the dead narrator's POV. The justification for reading as a means to a deeper awareness of the eternal questions came to me very early on and I had hoped for more AHA, intuitive leaps of imagination, from the protagonists' metaphysical experience.