In a county known for writers and artists, we are lucky enough to now add one more to our resident roster. Novelist Amy Tan and husband Louis DeMattei have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, learned to navigate their Segways through the hills of Sausalito, and are enjoying their new neighborhood. Tan’s latest book (which for her is synonymous with latest New York Times best seller), Saving Fish from Drowning, was selected for 2008 One Book One Marin. Her art will be taking the stage in a new way on September 13, when the San Francisco Opera will present the world premiere of The Bonesetter’s Daughter, a new opera by Stewart Wallace based on Tan’s best-selling novel. For those intested in the process of creating this work, she and Wallace will appear together to discuss their collaboration at Dominican College in San Rafael on September 21.
You could live anywhere. Why Marin? After living in San Francisco for 30 years, we wanted a home that was arthritis friendly: fewer stairs, warmer weather, easier parking. It also had to be close to the city. Marin won hands down because of beauty. There was never a second choice.
What makes you happy in Marin? Our home! We are in love with our home. Besotted. Grateful every day we’re alive and living here.
What bothers you here? Holier-than-thou cyclists who yell at us that we’re lazy when we’re on our Segways. We Segway to the bank, the store, the pharmacy, to do all our in-town chores. They’re a zero-emissions form of transport, and they go up hills, no sweat. We do ride bikes but do sweat on those—not attractive in the hair salon or doctor’s office.
What do you value every day? My patient husband, my regained health, the way my dogs look at me, writing in solitude, and that I have all this in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
What person has influenced you the most? For better or worse, my mother. She taught me to constantly be aware whether I am being genuine or superficially nice, to be authentically generous and not just to gain favor, to be open-minded but never subservient. She also gave me obsessions, like how to find the best bargain, and how to be prepared for disasters of all kinds.
What has been the most fulfilling moment in your work? When writing, I have unexpected moments when some essence of my life is revealed. It’s like getting punched, instead of pain, it’s joy and amazement. The most fulfilling moment is the next to come.
What’s your desert-island favorite book or album? On a deserted desert island, it would be How to Survive on a Deserted Desert Island. On an island with a spa and beachside services, it would be a novel I’ve always wanted to have the leisure time to read.
What’s your favorite place to unwind? My home, a 1908 cottage. How can you be all wound up when going around a garden smelling lavender, jasmine, clematis and that thing you just stepped in, courtesy of your little dog now grinning at you and wagging his tail?
Do you have a favorite Marin view? The one from my bedroom window, which I wake up to: a view of Angel Island. I often think about the Chinese immigrants who were detained on Angel Island a hundred years ago. Their ghosts are happy that I am in this house looking at the island rather than languishing in its barracks looking at this house.
How do you want to be remembered? Besides being the person who broke the world’s record for living the longest without aging a day? “She had an extraordinary amount of good luck and she shared it with others.”