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on December 5, 2011
I was so excited to find this new story by Amy Tan; I've missed her! As usual, she gives a riveting glimpse into a lost world--this one being Shanghai in 1912, where high-end courtesans rule the party scene and gossip pages. The "rules" outlined in this story are fascinating, provocative, and outright funny. Who would guess that being a mistress came with such an elaborate set of protocols that extended way beyond the bedroom? Tan is back and in fine form. Hooray!
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on December 5, 2011
Rules for Virgins: "How to become a popular Courtesan while avoiding Cheapskates, False Love and Suicide." (Since there still seems to be confusion about what this Kindle Single is, I'm editing: this is a 40 page 'novella', very short. It is a list of "rules" that courtesans followed in Shaghai, told in a very entertaining and witty manner. There is no back story, no character development per se. It is what it is. This is Amy Tan producing a very short, but brilliant, literary work. It is NOT a novel)

I have a special shelf set aside for my Amy Tan Collection - first editions, autographed copies, special bound editions - and I have a special place already reserved for 'The Valley of Amazement', to be released next year. This short novella in digital format is a delicious appetizer for her soon-to-be published next novel. It certainly does not disappoint. The prose is elegant without being frilly; matter-of-fact without ever being dull. Witty and wise, one always learns while laughing with Amy Tan. These "rules" were taught to young courtesans in old Shanghai, yet they might as easily be applicable to the intricasies of relationships between men and women today.

"..a grown man may have nostalgia for his ideal self. You must cultivate his sentimentality for moral glory and help him treasure his myth of who he was. And when you do, he will not be able to let you go. When you touch a man's nostalgia, he is yours."

There is the chapter on "Patrons and Cheapskates", which includes advice on "working toward the Four Necessities: Jewelry, furniture, a stipend and retirement." Where she says, in her no-nonsense style: "Forget about Love. You can't eat it, even if it leads to marriage."

In the six year wait, I've re-read "Saving Fish from Drowning", "Bonesetter's Daughter" and "The Kitchen God's Wife." I am grateful for this delicious morsel of an appetizer in the form of "Rules for Virgins", and will be delighting in its wisdom for many moons to come. Thank you, Ms. Tan, for another work of art in words. I only regret I cannot obtain this in hardback, with beautiful cover art, to place on my bookshelf !
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on December 10, 2011
This is truly 'Rules for Virgins.' This NOT a novel, but a precursor to an actual novel (which I did not realize until the 'story' abruptly came to an end). In other words, there is no story beyond 'the rules.' Hopefully, Tan will publish something that completes this story. The 'Rules' ARE a good read. Just disappointed that I didn't know beforehand that this was a novella... $2.99 is steep for 43 pages.
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on December 8, 2011
Firstly, let me say than this story spurred me to make my first e-book purchase, and I downloaded the Kindle app. to my PC in order to read it. It is all painless and no problem if you don't own any kind of e-reader. Now you have no excuse.
Secondly, if you are a man, don't be afraid to read this "single" It is quite a departure for Amy Tan as far as content goes, but as far as quality it is way up there with the best of her previous work. If I could have picked it up I wouldn't have been able to put it down; "fascinating" is a word that comes to mind- who knew all the plots and ploys that go into making a man fall in love with a young girl all in the name of amassing enough "bling" to retire once the flower has wilted? I daren't ask where Amy got her information, but this is one of those stories that make you appreciate exactly what it takes to be a master author of this calibre. It can immediately draw you in (even if you are a man!), keep you reading and then leave you wanting more at the end (pun intended). It has been a long 6 years since the last novel but this is about as triumphal a "return" as it gets!
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on February 7, 2012
This book is marketed as a Kindle Single, so I was surprised when I ended up with a 43 page excerpt rather than a fully-realized short story. The submission guidelines for Kindle Singles state that they do not accept excerpts. Perhaps that needs to be re-worded to state they do not promote excerpts unless you are an author with a built-in following like Amy Tan. The excerpt uses stream of conscioussness as an older courtesan gives a wealth of advice to an up-and-coming courtesan who is about to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. There is no plot to speak of and the girl never speaks. Still, the writing is engaging, but falls flat overall. About partway through the story (or whatever you want to call it...) Magic Gourd (the old prostitute) starts to drop F-bombs left and right which did not feel true to the character. At $2.99 this purchase was overpriced and the marketing used is misleading.

[...]
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VINE VOICEon December 6, 2011
In "Rules for Virgins" Amy Tan is back as our guide to the inscrutable Orient and the lush but dangerous life of courtesans living in pre-WWI Shanghai.

The life of a courtesan is as perilous as it is erotic as the beautiful young women compete for the attention of a wealthy admirer, and Tan is unrivaled in illuminating this culture of secrets and sensuality.

An experienced courtesan Magic Gourd lectures the beautiful, young Violet slowly introducing her to the intricacies and nuance of male patronage, power and above all pleasure and "all the ways that five thousand years of lovemaking, excitement" have devised.

Violet learns that the most beautiful aren't necessarily the ones who succeed economically and socially. The great courtesans are those women who "understand human nature, that of men and women both. They know how to attract attention and envy and bend it to their advantage."

Violets' introduction to this exotic world is the main thread but as Magic Gourd reveals bits of her own past we discover her story of love and loss. We're also taken into the world of 1912 Shanghai, the bustle of commerce and fashion and the relentless snooping of the tabloid press, always hovering like mosquitoes.

Magic Gourd commands the stage as mentor to Violet. Her wiles and professional knowledge are in contrast to Violet's innocence and absence of guile. Violet needs to be carefully taught and Magic Gourd is the expert instructor.

I think Tan has earned her following because she's a better story teller than most writers. What I found remarkable about "Rules for Virgins" is Tan's ability to compress so much detail and narrative into so few pages. The story she tells is both dense and intense. It's sort of like eating a morsel of deep, dark chocolate. The story like the chocolate is very satisfying.
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This Kindle Single is only 43 pages long and is written from the point of view of an experienced courtesan in 1912 Shanghai. She is now in her thirties and has had a long and successful career as being one of the top ten beauties of her time. Now she is instructing a young 15-year old girl in the tricks of the trade. Clearly, she is fond of the girl and wants her to be successful. She therefore pulls no punches in giving detailed instructions in everything she must learn, including how to present herself, seduce men, accumulate gifts, watch out for competition and become proficient at satisfying a wide variety of erotic appetites. All of this is told in a matter of fact way that makes the world of the courtesan very real. It spares no details ad is often quite titillating. Basically though it is a story of a time and a place and a profession that has always been around in one form or another.

This was a fast and fun read. I really enjoyed it. It's now only 99 cents on Kindle and well worth the price.
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on January 28, 2014
If I could give this NO stars I would but Amazon does not allow this rating. This "short story" is nothing more than a chapter from her newest book "The Valley of Amazement." I'm a big Amy Tan fan and immediately purchased this. I wasn't terribly impressed but it wasn't too bad. I then immmediately bought Valley when it came out and imagine my surprise when I came upon this same chapter! I don't know if Amy is involved in this, but what a con! Selling the same thing twice is a collosal scam.
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on January 2, 2012
I love the fact that some well-known authors are now writing substantial shorter works to be sold as Kindle Singles. It makes me feel good to spend only 99 cents and get something as wonderful as Rules for Virgins. Tan clearly understands the medium; this is not a longer book just cut down to size. It is conceived and perfectly executed to be just as long as it is. I am as satisfied as if I had read a longer book.

In Rules For Virgins, an experienced Chinese courtesan gives instructions to a young virgin just entering the trade. The rules are intricate, fascinating, and heartbreaking. It could be compared (favorably) to Memoirs of a Geisha, although of course it's told from a different point of view. The aging courtesan is proud, dedicated to maintaining the standards of her profession, and yet closed, of necessity, to emotion. It's just fascinating.
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on September 14, 2013
To those who seem unaware that this wasn't a full book - it's billed as a Kindle Single so there should be no surprises. The number of pages are listed in the details.

I love Amy Tan since her first novel. I kept waiting for this to get interesting. Yes, it was nicely written. However it turned crude near the end. And different than other Kindle Singles I have purchases, it had no ending.

It was a light read in one sitting, so not a total loss but $2.99 is very steep (most singles are $0.99-1.99). I definitely wouldn't read a full book about this subject or the characters - although in a novel maybe they would be more developed.
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