Friday, December 9, 2016

"The Art of Confidence"

Wendy Lee is the author of the novels The Art of Confidence, Across a Green Ocean, and Happy Family. Happy Family was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2008 by Booklist and awarded an honorable mention from the Association of Asian American Studies.

A graduate of Stanford University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program, Lee has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Corporation of Yaddo. She spent more than a decade in the publishing industry as an editor at HarperCollins Publishers and Lantern Books in Brooklyn, where she co-edited the anthology Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and the Sexual Politics of Meat. She has also worked as an English teacher in China, taught writing at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and served as a mentor with Girls Write Now.

Lee applied the Page 69 Test to The Art of Confidence and reported the following:
The Art of Confidence is about a forged painting and the five people involved in its creation and sale. One of the characters is Harold Yu, the Taiwanese businessman who buys the painting as an investment but is inexplicably drawn to it, even though he has no understanding of art.

On Page 69, Harold has just returned home to Taipei from a trip to New York where he first learned about the painting. He’s married to a woman named Vicki, who comes from a powerful family in Taiwan; together they have a young son named Adrian.
The worst thing anyone could say to Vicki was that she was Chinese instead of Taiwanese, despite—or because of—the fact that her grandfather had come to Taiwan from the mainland in 1949 as part of the nationalist government. In college, as she liked to remind people, she’d been the first runner-up to Miss Taipei.

Meanwhile, Harold thought it was important that his son have some exposure to the mainland, where much of his business had shifted over the past ten years. Someday, when Adrian was old enough to take over the company, as Harold had when his father died, it would be useful not to consider himself so different from the people across the Taiwan Straits.
Up to the point of buying the painting, Harold has lived according to the parameters set by other people. Vicki, as the first part of the passage above indicates, is a bit of a snob, and Harold has always felt inferior to her. He’s let her dictate where they live and how they bring up their son. Now, with their marriage on the rocks, he decides to buy the painting, in part, to impress her. It’s a romantic and completely useless gesture, but it paves way for further self-introspection.

The forged painting unlocks certain parts in each character’s personality, but for Harold, it really becomes the catalyst for him to re-examine his marriage and determine what he really wants out of life.
Visit Wendy Lee's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Across a Green Ocean.

The Page 69 Test: Across a Green Ocean.

Writers Read: Wendy Lee.

My Book, The Movie: The Art of Confidence.

--Marshal Zeringue