Amy Tan burst onto the literary scene in 1989 with the publication of The Joy Luck Club, a novel that followed four Chinese-born mothers and their American-born daughters in San Francisco. It was a lovely book at many levels: Tan’s prose was lean and elegant, her characters were interesting, and the juxtaposition of old-world mothers and new-world daughters was fascinating. Tan deserved her overnight fame.
Tans subsequent novels were less interesting and appealed to a smaller audience. None of them, though, indicated that Tan would fall prey to the sudden onset of liberal dementia, complete with all that the disease entails: vicious personal attacks, random obscenities, self-referential emotionalism in lieu of logic, and myriad factual misrepresentations.
Tan’s slide started with a little offensive word play:
Who among us are friends? I did a check of mutual friends and the candidates. I have 9 FB friends who like Rigid Sanctimonious. 34 like Nude Grinch, 85 like Mutt Raunchy, and 76 like Rump Pale. 1,375 of my FB friends like Barack Obama. Now that the political season is upon us, and my posts are getting more vituperative, I have a feeling some of my FB friends will be defriending me. Vote with your click!
The above certainly isn’t elegant, but I’m not going to castigate her for doodling around with politicians’ names. After all, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin do the same. The difference, of course, is that their word play makes sense, insofar as the names they call certain Democrats tie in with traits those Democrats display, whereas Tan is simultaneously vulgar and meaningless. After all, whatever else one says about Romney, he’s not “Raunchy.” And what in the world does “Rump Pale” have to do with Ron Paul? If you’re going to be crude, at least be clever.
The word play was just a small sign of things to come. Tan’s sudden slide from good writing and rational thought truly began when some people challenged her simplistic word play. Here, verbatim, is Tan’s Facebook outburst in defense of the silly names she visited upon Republicans:
To those who criticize my perversion of the GOP candidates’ names, please know that name-calling is not my usual standard of response. Nor do I normally use expletives. But I make exceptions. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a line-up of candidates who want to pervert the lives of women, who want to f**k them over every which way they can think of. These perverts are men, and variously they are telling us that single women should not have sex, should not use contraceptives, should consider a baby conceived from a rape to be a blessing, and to leave all matters concerning their uterus to them. They say that contraceptives for women make it too easy for them to “do things.” They do not offer the same opinions on men and their tendencies to “do things.” Their rhetoric makes it sound like women are wanton spirits who must be controlled. I am a writer because I have strong opinions. Those opinions on women’s rights come from my grandmother, who was raped, and my mother, who was raped at gunpoint by her husband, and who was jailed when she ran away from him. My mother told me as a child and a grownup, that no one should ever tell me whether I should have a baby. How could I be any other kind of writer, any other kind of person? How could I not protest the perversion of women’s rights espouses by these candidates? The twisted names I give them may sound “hurtful” –as name-calling is. But the hurt they would give us would not be temporary slights, but permanent scars. This country is not divided because of Obama. It has been divided for a long time by the Republican Right who vote down the line on personal moral beliefs. They are out of touch with the the actual governance of this country and its relation to the larger world. Would these candidates cut off relations with China until China abolishes the one-child policy? I was born the daughter of a Baptist minister. I know how intractable religious beliefs are supposed to be, how by faith, you must carry those beliefs into the world, into all walks of life, without compromise, without listening to any other opinions. By that faith, you save who you can and smite who you can’t. To these GOP candidates who want to rule government by the divine guidance of their cocks, study the pages of history on the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and keep your hands off me, my nieces, my sisters, my women friends, their daughters and their daughters to come.
It’s amazing how political madness makes one transition instantly from elegant writer to verbal vomiter. Deconstructing Tan’s rant requires way too much energy. The pertinent point is that, so far as I know, none of the Republicans candidates have said that they would use the federal government to prevent single women from having sex or to ban contraceptives. They have all suggested or stated outright that a sexually permissive society has serious downsides for women and children. All have stated a commitment to fetal life. And all have argued that the Obama administration is violating the First Amendment’s promise of religious freedom when it mandates that people and institutions that are morally and doctrinal opposed to contraception and abortion must nevertheless fund the cost of contraceptives and abortifacients.
Tan’s hysterical claim that Republicans insist that “babies conceived in rape are a blessing” is equally off base insofar as it posits that Republicans at large, and the presidential candidates specifically, approve of rape. More accurately, certain Republicans do believe that the way in which a child is conceived should not determine whether it deserves to live or die. The conditions of its conception should not be a death sentence. Compared to Tan’s vapid inaccuracy, that’s a very different — and eminently valid — way of looking at a pregnancy born of rape.
It’s sad when a once good writer goes off the rails. Perhaps Tan will one day find her way back because, as a writer, when she’s good, she’s very, very good. Sadly, though, when she’s bad, she’s horrid.