Tai Chi: The Story of a Chinese Master In America, by Marc Meyer
Family. A common thread in this charming story surrounding an adolescent boy and his uncle navigating duty, education, a culture’s oral history, and the ancient art of T’ai Chi in New York’s Chinatown during the 1960s.
While others may interpret the central character of Meyer’s novel to be respected elder T’ai Chi Master Kuo Yun San, I believe it is really his nephew Paul Chen’s tale to tell. It is through Paul’s eyes and ears that we experience the world around him, living with his younger brother Fa, mother Mei and stepfather Harry. It is the uncle’s return to the US from the Cultural Revolution of China that guides the path ahead for the Chen family and the two impressionable boys.
Practitioners of the internal arts liken the form to a strand of silk thread woven through a string of pearls. So too are the threads of martial arts study, first love, family secrets, a mentor’s substance abuse, silent benefactors and competition woven through Paul’s maturity and growth.
Those familiar with the Five Chinese Elements (Wood, Metal, Fire, Earth and Water) will delight in the spot-on nicknames for Kuo’s students–devotees who remain with the master throughout his years at the dojo in Chinatown.
The author Marc Meyer is a T’ai Chi instructor and jazz pianist. Both are disciplines where sparring, improvisation, adaptation, pushing and redirecting are essential elements. This first novel shows a knack for blending topical issues like immigration, addiction, debt, athletic organization protocols, trust and faith with the beautiful story of one extended family half a century ago.
“The idea of using slow movement from a martial perspective is to practice unifying all parts of the body. With proper training, a T’ai Chi fighter can harness the forces of nature against an opponent yet appear relaxed as if nothing was happening.”
In Taichi: The Story of A Chinese Master, Marc Meyer’s protagonist Paul Chen and his uncle Kuo Yan Sun serve to unify the mind, body and spirit.