We sat down with the author of crazy Rich Asians to discuss the notion of rich people problems i.e the kind of notions only rich people may go through.
In 2013, Kevin Kwan wrote Crazy Rich Asians, the satirical saga of three super-rich Asian families behaving (and spending) badly. The novel—based, in part, on Kwan’s own childhood—received critical acclaim and became the basis for a film starring Constance Wu and an absurdist, luxury-laden trilogy: China Rich Girlfriend, published in 2015, and now, Rich People Problems, published by Doubleday.
Ahead of Problems’s, Kwan talked to VF.com about the end of the series, the Crazy Rich Asians movie, and one thing we hoped to hear but never thought we would: that plastic surgery for fish really does exist.
VF.com: How do you feel now that you’ve finished the trilogy?
Kevin Kwan: It’s hard to believe that it’s actually done.
What drew you to satirical novels in the first place?
I felt like I could actually tell more stories, and tell stories with more accuracy, in this format. It really saves me from lots of libel and lawsuits.
What was most important to you in writing the series?
The universe that my characters find themselves in—that’s very important to me. These are people who very much define themselves by their things, for better or for worse. In the U.S., flashiness is seen as name-dropping, and it’s considered impolite to ask what brand someone is wearing, unless you know the person fairly well. But in Asia, it’s [a] free-for-all. People discuss it like they’re discussing sports, or politics, or anything like that. It’s very matter-of-fact, and it’s part of that world.
What do you hope people will take away from your books?
It’s a balancing act. On the one hand, I want to portray this world with a certain degree of authenticity, and let the viewer decide where they want to sit on the moral line of the consumerism, materialism, greed, and waste taking place. On the other hand, I am a satirist, and I am very much skewering a certain set of people.
I also feel like I’m an outsider to this world. I live in New York, my life is very much that of a normal working New Yorker—I’m not flying on private jets every single day, and I don’t have a chauffeur waiting to take me uptown. But when I’m in this other world of Asia, there are four maids waiting for me at the airport. It’s ridiculous, and I’m almost embarrassed. The degree to which some people are pampered is jaw-dropping. I did want to portray that in the books. So, there are barbed moments, but it’s all done in good fun. I hope.
Speaking of that kind of absurd extravagance—I’m constantly asking myself whether this could really all be real. Like when Irene Wu brings her arowana pet fish to the plastic surgeon. Does plastic surgery for fish really exist?
It absolutely, 100 percent does. When I was a kid, I was very much into exotic tropical fish and I bred arowanas, so I was very much familiar with this world. But I didn’t know the extremes to which collectors now go. Back then, it was a fun thing for a kid to do—the fish cost, like, $1,000 each. Now, they’re a quarter of a million dollars or $300,000 for a fish, depending on the color, and the collectors who collect them are so obsessed with them looking perfect. There’s this specialist—I believe there’s only one—in Singapore, and he is the master plastic surgeon for arowanas. These crazy-rich Asians, and the rest of the world, will send their fish to him, for minor nips and tucks, to make sure they have the perfect jawline, that their eyes turn up the perfect way. It’s just unbelievable.
If something that unfathomable is actually true . . . what isn’t true, in your books?
There’s very little in my book that’s made up. Everything’s actually drawn from observation and reality. I don’t have the imagination to dream up plastic surgery for fish. I really don’t.
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Source Vanity Fair