Feature

Author of the week: Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan has witnessed displays of opulence that are so over the top that he couldn’t include them in his satirical novel, Crazy Rich Asians.

Kevin Kwan has lived part of his life in an alternate universe, said Lauren Christensen in Vanity Fair. Born in Singapore into a large, wealthy family, the New York–based writer has witnessed displays of opulence in East Asia that are so over the top that he couldn’t even include them in his hilarious new satirical novel, Crazy Rich Asians. “The reality is simply unbelievable,” he says. More unbelievable, apparently, than the scenes he paints of palatial homes with museum-quality art collections, private jets with built-in yoga studios, and a wedding that features a performance by Cirque du Soleil. “So many stories in the book I actually had to tone down,” he says. “My editor was like, ‘No one will believe this.’ And I would say, ‘But this really happened.’”

Kwan’s upbringing was different, despite the family’s deep pockets, said Sherryl Connelly in the New York Daily News. “There were nannies and servants and all that,” he says, yet no hint of ostentation. “In Singapore, there may be 50 old-money families, but you wouldn’t know them to look at them.” Kwan thus plays the role of bemused observer whenever he’s afforded access to the massive parties thrown by mainland China’s new billionaire class. “Such huge money has been made in China—it can be hundreds of millions in a year—and there’s a need to validate it by showing what they can buy,” he says. For now, a fictionalized version is all we’ll get out of him. “I’d gladly tell you what I’ve witnessed,” he says, “except I want the invitations to keep coming.”

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