Amy Tan found fame With her debut novel The Joy Luck Club, later made into a film. As she publishes her novel The Hundred Secret Senses, she explains to Ann Donald what motivates her.


4 gr (3:




Name Amy Ruth Tan.

Age 43. I'll be 44 in February.

Route to becoming a writer i guess I learnt from my parents about storytelling. My father reading his sermons aloud and listening to my mother around the kitchen table when she was preparing a meal and talking about all her friends she had left in China. Previous jobs 1 was a switchboard operator, a pizza cook. a consultant at a disabled children‘s school and a freelance business writer. 1 also take care of my dog‘s mess.

Daily routine When I’m writing a book and not doing all the publicity I work from 9am till 7pm. it‘s a wonderful luxury to sit down and lose myself in writing. That’s unless i come across a particularly difficult patch.

Influences Among writers l'd count Isabelle Allende and Louise Erdricht. My editor is very good at finding the heart of a story when I take her rough drafts and For also a member of a writing group where we read aloud and critique each other's work.

Ambitions To be able to illustrate my own books.

Fears I suppose this would be a fear of losing the people 1 love. It used to be a constant obsession when l was younger and probably goes back to my family history when 1 lost my brother and father.

Income My husband takes care of all my finances because I deliberately don't want to know how much 1 pay in taxes. All 1 know is that 1 can write terrible books for the rest of my life and 1 can still afford to pay my bills.

Amy Tan is at James Thin, Edinburgh on Thurs 8 Feb at 7pm and John Smith and Son. Glasgow on Fri 9 Feb at 7pm. The Hundred Secret Senses is published by Flamingo at £15.99.


I Leila Robin Jenkins (Polygon £8.99) There‘s something very contemporary about Lei/a. the latest novel from award-winning Scottish writer Robin Jenkins. yet it‘s set in the Far East of the 1950s.

Having left Edinburgh. Andrew Sandilands teaches in a small Asian country where he's respected by the expatriate community and the golf- playing Sultan alike. However. he's drawn into the emerging social unrest. striving for a proper elected democracy.

He falls in love with the daughter of a local politician. the beautiful Leila. regarded as a cornrmrnist determined to overthrow the existing regime. She wins his heart and. once married. Sandilands learns not only how dedicated to her country she is. but also how narrow-minded and judgemental the self-righteous expats can be.

Although essentially a love story. Leila‘s political. foreign backdrop establishes a greater emotional depth. It is written with a deftly simple elegance that dispenses with artifice and weighty description. Jenkins has brewed a poignant and honest flavour that turns this into a captivating human drama. (Paul W. Smith)


I A User’s Guide To The Millennium: Essays And Reviews J. G. Ballard (HarperCollins £18) The ruost telling fact about Ballard is that despite over 30 years relentlessly pursuing his artistic aims in the idiom of science fiction. his enduring masterpiece Empire ()f The Sun is a semi- autobiographical novel set amid the real horrors of recent history.

The variety apparent in his work can be boiled down to a single unifying eleruent: the sexual and violent impulses embedded in the darker depths of the imagination. Although his obsessions still dominate. that imagination is only sporadically evident in this collection of non-fiction.

Most of the stuff here is straightforward factual summary. albeit considered and accurate. Although capable ofcoining brilliant epithets (‘Warhol is the Walt Disney of the amphetamine age'). and insightful in his evaluation of Surrealism and sci-fr. the selection could have been more

J. G. Ballard: ‘maverick litterateur

rigorous. Strait—jacketed by the exigencies of Sunday journalism. and possibly by the mantle of maverick Iiltcratcur. this fascinating novelist is often no more interesting as a journalist than dozens of others. if the title is accurate. we‘re in fora pretty predictable ride beyond 2()()l. (David Harris)


I In God’s Country Douglas Kennedy (Abacus £7.99) In the USA. religious fervour is a rife. often ridiculous reality. the Christian Right a recognised political force. But what ruakes the average. sane American turn to God with such ferocity? in 1988. Kennedy embarked on a mission through the Bible Belt in order to find out. The result is a crazy. fascinating read.

I Cold Comfort Edited by James Loader (Serpent's Tail £8.99) Twenty- two cheery tales of death and bereavement creating a whole which is broad in scope but something of a curatc's egg in quality, Interest comes from the diversity of contributors who include big names like A. S. Byatt. a clutch of overseas authors and a healthy contingent of apprentices.

I Drivetime James .‘ylcck (Polygon £8.99) The second novel from the (Juan/fan‘s Moscow correspondent is a weird and pacy romp. Alan wants to start a new life. but he's broke. Then a wealthy stranger offers him an egg- collectirrg assignment. an opportunity which results in a frantic trek around liurope ()VCI'SlliitlthCtl by the characters and actions of Alan‘s iast.

I An Anthropologist n Mars ()liver Sacks (Picador £6.99) Seven more incredible cases from the author of The illtul ll'llu .llls‘lmtk His ll’lft' Far :1 Hill and Arrttketrhrgs. From the colour blind artist. to ’l’ourette‘s-stricken surgeons and the brilliance of pr'odigies. Sacks takes us through the circumstances. treatments and outcomes ofcach subject with customaryentertainment value and accessibility.

I Grey Area And Other Stories Will

Self ( Penguin £6.99) To date. Self has

been lauded as a genius. although acquired taste is probably nearer the mark. This collection. while retaining the bizarre in content. strikes new degrees of clarity and readability in tone which should win new fans. But forget the writing. (irey Area has the coolest cover in town. Buy and pose. (Susan Mackenzie)


I Burns Bicentenary Until Sun 28 Jan. Waterstone’s. 45 Princes Square. 221 9650. Throughout the week the store will be offering a free daily whisky tasting between 2-3pm, and of course a wide array of Burns material.

I has. “Tue 30 Jan. 1pm. University of Strathclyde. 552 4400 ext 3516. Ross reads from his new biography Adam Smith In Life And Legend, the latest work about the author of The Wealth Of Nations.

I Medical Multimedia Day Thurs 1 Feb. 3—7pm. John Smith's. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 7472. An afternoon exhibition of CD-ROM titles from leading medical publishers at The lntemet Learning Centre on the Basement Level of John Smith's. I Stranger Than Fiction Tue 6 Feb. 7.30pm. CCA, 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 7521. £2 (£1). As part of CCA’s Phenomenal season. a group of experts including Lyn Picknet. author of The Encyclopaedia Of The Paranormal and Mike Dash, publisher of the strange phenomena magazine Fortean 7imes. reflect on mankind’s continuing fascination with the unexplained.

I Poetry Beading Sun 28 Jan, 8pm. Free. Fruitmarket Gallery. 29 Market Street, 225 2383. Andrew Grieg (described as “a Scottish poet with sensitivity and resilience‘ by Edwin Morgan). ian McDonough and Brent Hodgeson give a

reading in association with The Shore Poets, with music from clarsach player Wendy Stewart.

I 2 Write Tue 30 Jan. 6.30—8.30pm. Free. Central Library. George [V Bridge. 225 5584. As part of a series of participative workshops introducing aspects of writing. Joy Hendry discusses the art of writing


I W. N. Herbert Wed 31 Feb. 7.30pm. £3 (£2) (Free to members). Caimgorm Room. The Pleasance. Info: 228 3780. A poetry reading with the Edinburgh University Poetry Society.

I New Writing Scotland 13 Thurs 1 Feb. 7.30pm. £2 (£1). Fruitmarket Gallery. 29 Market Street. 225 2383. Word Power Bookshop and the Association for Scottish Literary Studies launch the latest book in the New Writing collection Last Things First (ASLS £6.95). with readings from A. L. Kennedy. Maggie Graham. Gael Tumbull. Rody Gonnan and Ken Cockbum.

I Joan lingard Thurs 1 Feb. 7.45pm. £2 (£1) (WIPS members free). Filmhouse. Lothian Road. info: 229 5511. Women In Publishing Scotland present an evening with author Joan Lingard who will talk about her two most recent novels After Colette (Sinclair Stevenson £6.99) and Dreams Of Love And Modest Glory (Sinclair Stevenson £14.99).

I Poetry Reading Sun 4 Feb. 8pm. Free. Fruitmarket Gallery. 29 Market Street. 225 2383. Joe Blades. P. J. Fleming and Kim Oliver present an evening of Canadian and Scottish poetry.

I Rosemary Conley Tue 6 Feb. l2.30—1.30pm. James Thin. South Gyle. 539 7757. Hip and thigh queen Rosemary

signs copies of her new book The Complete Flat Stomach Plan (Arrow

3 Books £4.99)

I Margaret Collins Waltz Wed 7 Feb. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The author reads from her new book Sisters In The Resistance (John Wiley £19.99). featuring personal testimonies from women in France during the Nazi occupation.

I 2 Write Wed 7 Feb, 7—8.30pm. Free. Oxgangs Library. 343 Oxgangs Road North. info: 225 5584. As part ofa series of participative workshops introducing aspects of writing. Janet Paisley takes debut writers through the basics in ‘Absolute Beginners’.

I Amy Tan Thurs 8 Feb. 7pm. James Thin. 53—59 South Bridge. 556 6743. The author of the hugely successful Joy Luck Club reads from her new book set in the USA and China The Hundred Secret Senses (HarperCollins £15.99).

I Carl lilaasen Thurs 8 Feb. 7.15pm. BBC Studios. Queen Street. Info: 225 3436. The author reads from his new crime novel set in Florida Stomry Weather (Pan Macmillan £15.99), organised by Waterstone’s George Street in conjunction with BBC Scotland's The Usual Suspects.


I Voices and Visions Tue 6 Feb. 7.30pm. Free. Paisley Arts Centre. New Street. 887 1010. Henry Normal (co-writer of The Mrs Merton Show and Coogan '3 Run) teams up with musician Andy Thornton (Big Sur and solo album Victims And Criminals) for some bittersweet poetry, sublime wit and haunting melody.

78 The List .16 Jan-8 Feb 1996