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'I see it through a prism of ridiculousness': Kevin Kwan on his new book 'Sex and Vanity'

Jesse Vad

The Jakarta Post

California, United States  /  Wed, July 22, 2020  /  03:25 pm
'I see it through a prism of ridiculousness': Kevin Kwan on his new book 'Sex and Vanity'

Kevin Kwan attends the 2019 InStyle and Warner Bros. 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards Post-Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, California, the United States (AFP/Matt Winkelmeyer)

Author Kevin Kwan rocketed to fame after his 2013 novel, Crazy Rich Asians, exploded in popularity. The book led to two sequels and a movie, turning Kwan into a celebrity and changing his life.

Now, the famous author is back with another story from the world of the ridiculously rich.

Kwan’s new book, Sex and Vanity, released last month, introduces readers to a new set of wildly wealthy characters.

The book follows Lucie Churchill, daughter of a Chinese-American mother and a blue-blooded New York father, who is torn between her family-approved fiancé and George Zao, a man she is trying her hardest to resist.

The book is a take on EM Forster’s 1908 novel, A Room With a View, one of Kwan’s favorite books. Kwan felt that Forster uniquely satirized privileged English society which inspired him to do something similar in Sex and Vanity, but centered on New York.

Kwan’s new cast of characters are inspired by people he has known in real life. Once he started writing, they began to develop naturally through a process that Kwan said is hard to describe.

“The characters start talking to me, and I just record what they want to say and what they wish to do,” Kwan said in an email.

His characters also face problems that are rooted deeper than the title suggests.

“Lucie has unconsciously internalized the subtle racism of the WASPy side of her family,” said Kwan. “The confusion and insecurity that result from these messages are what send Lucie into the spiral of self-doubt and missteps she struggles so bravely to pull herself out of.”

Kwan often chooses to tackle these issues with humor. He prefers to highlight topics like racism with comedy instead of, “trying to hit the reader over the head with ‘a lesson.’”

As in Kwan’s previous books, class, privilege and wealth are very much present in Sex and Vanity. Readers are transported to luxurious locations from Capri, Italy, to the Hamptons in New York. But these elements are not without a purpose.

Kwan said issues of class and inequality bubble up throughout the entire book. He enjoys observing the snobbery of the super rich because for him, it reveals so much about their values.

“Life is often just a replaying of the hierarchies of the high school cafeteria-who sits where, who’s included, who’s excluded, who is on the rise, who is on the decline, etc. We can all understand that kind of ‘law of the jungle’ no matter how many zeroes are in our bank account.” said Kwan. “I play it for laughs because I see it through a prism of ridiculousness.”

Sex and Vanity will be adapted into a movie by Sony Pictures and SK Global Entertainment, which Kwan is very excited about. He can’t wait to start casting actors for the film which he envisions as a, “sumptuous feast for the senses". (kes)


The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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