Like any self-respecting holder of an MA in literature, I lean toward the highbrow in my reading. This unwavering lifelong quest to improve my mind and comprehend the human condition has driven me through the pages of a number of extreme downer Pulitzer Prize winners (AMERICAN PASTORAL, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES). From time to time, though, I dip my toe into less “literary” works. (THE GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO trilogy, the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and THE DA VINCI CODE come to mind).
CRAZY RICH ASIANS was the perfect palate-cleanser after my slog through George Orwell’s 1984. The snappy cover art of Kevin Kwan’s debut had caught my eye online and in airport shops, but I didn’t buy a copy until a few weeks ago, at Fair Isle, the fabulous independent book shop on Washington Island, WI. By then, movie buzz had begun, and I happened to run across a piece about the author in the New York Times. In the article, Kwan admitted he sold the movie rights for just $1.00, commenting, “I never thought my book would get published in the first place!” As a debut novelist myself currently fantasizing about publication, I was immediately in Kwon’s royalty-accumulating corner.
The narrative teems with incredibly rich and mostly shallow characters, relieved from time to time by a (more or less) rich person with his or her head screwed on straight. I learned a lot I didn’t know about Singapore and vicinity though ultimately I couldn’t find a character I could fully love in CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Predictably, the boy that loses the girl gets her back again, so no surprises. All that said, I’m glad I can now speak intelligently about this runaway best seller.
I caught the afternoon matinee yesterday at the Iowa Theater. As usual, I purchased a large popcorn only three-fourths full so there’d be room for my Junior Mints. Enjoying the satisfying blend of salt and sweet, I settled into my seat. By about halfway in, the depictions of excessive wealth became as boring as some of the excessively wealthy people depicted obviously were. Thankfully, the movie left out enough of the too-many characters from the book that we the audience could pretty much follow the plot, and the ending (the actual way the boy Nick got the girl Rachel back) was surprisingly powerful.
Congratulations, Kevin Kwon—your fun read is also a fun film!