seven. man walks into a room, nicole krauss.
he struggled against the urge to call anna. he wanted to hear her voice, to test out how it sounded in the hollow space of the desert, to perform his own experiments ont he nature of absence. but something in him didn’t want to give in to it, didn’t want to admit to whatever else it was that made him want to call her. in the end he picked up the phone and dialed anyway. she wasn’t home. it was nine o’clock at night in new york, too late for her to be at work and too early for her to be asleep, which meant she was somewhere out in the glowing city. (136)
another of those books i reread every once in a while, and it never disappoints. man walks into a room is more “traditional,” which isn’t surprising because it’s a first novel, and, maybe, in that way, it’s a little less exciting than krauss’ more ambitious the history of love. there’s a quietness to man walks into a room, though; in heavier hands, it could have been a, well, heavier story; but krauss is so deft in exploring this idea of loss — and there’s an ease to this slim novel that i think i find rather soothing.
also, this is still one of my favourite passages ever:
He wanted to shut it off and sit in the dark once and for all, to cup his hand over the phone and say, Tell me, was I the sort of person who took your elbow when cars passed on the street, touched your cheek while you talked, combed your wet hair, stopped by the side of the road in the country to point out certain constellations, standing behind you so that you had the advantage of leaning and looking up? — and so on with a list that would keep her talking through the night. But he didn’t ask because he didn’t know if he wanted the answers. It was better, he felt, had felt from the beginning, not to know. He only wanted to pose the questions, as if just caring enough to ask might give absolution. (140)
eight. frankenstein, mary shelley.
'yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; i am alone.' (223)
frankenstein is one of my favourites overall and also one of my favourite classics. it’s very … neat, like tidy neat, in the way that i feel some classics tend to be (dracula feels that way to me, too, and even wuthering heights and jane eyre), but it explores the human condition in interesting and, even, frightening ways. one of the more interesting points in the novel for me is when frankenstein is creating a companion creature and he’s suddenly thinking about the potential consequences of his work, suddenly placing upon himself the greater good of the greater world. also when he says in his narration, “i was guiltless, but i had indeed drawn down a horrible curse upon my head, as mortal as that of crime.” (167) because i couldn’t quite consider frankenstein as being entirely guiltless, but then that makes you wonder what guilt is because, technically — technically — he didn’t do anything wrong.
nine. i’ll be right there, shin kyung-sook.
"miru writes down everything she eat." myungsuh answered for her.
everything? miru ignored my stares and continued writing it all down.
"why do you do that?" i asked.
"because then it feels real," she said.
"being alive." (110-1)
luckily, this one didn’t have me weeping in public places. it did bum me out a little, though, because it’s a pretty sombre book, but not in a cumbersome, heavy way. there’s a lightness to it that keeps pulling you forward, that says that, yeah, the characters in this book were in a hard place and lost a lot, but that, even so, they were still okay. that, no matter how much things changed, at that moment, they’d still had each other.
it wasn’t a perfect novel, though, and, for much it, i felt like i was being held at arm’s length. nonetheless, this is a book that’s sat with me, one i want to revisit in a few months because it’s left an impression and i want to come back to it, see how it feels after some time has passed.
"human beings are imperfect. we are complicated, indefinable by any wise saying or moral. the guilt, wondering what i’d done wrong, will follow me my whole life like my own shadow. the more you love someone, the stronger that feeling is. but if we cannot despair over the things we’ve lost, then what does it all mean? but … i don’t want that despair to damage your souls." (professor yoon) (294)
ten. the night guest, fiona macfarlane.
to put it very bluntly, this was a disappointment. maybe i’d gone into it with too high expectations because i’d seen favourable reviews floating around at the end of last year, and, when i bought the book at housing works, the guy ringing me up was super ecstatic about it, saying that his co-volunteer had read it and said it was so creepy. thus my expectations.
it started off promising enough, but, as i kept reading, my interest kept flagging, until i hit the middle of the book and realized i felt nothing for the book, except some anger towards frida. and then i had a moment of, oh, this book is going to end this way, isn’t it? — and, lo and behold, i was right. it wasn’t an interesting sort of predictability, either, so, by the end, i was literally just flipping pages just to get to the end.
currently reading jo kyung-ran’s tongue, which is making me all sorts of hungry because the narrator is a chef and the book has thus far been stuffed with these wonderful passages about food. thinking that maybe in march i’ll try to read modern korean authors because i have a few novellas to read, as well as hwang sok-young’s the old garden, which is a pretty hefty volume, and kim young-ha’s black flower.
also thinking that i really should get on with challenging myself and start reading korean literature … in korean. i mean, if i really want to get better at this language …..!!!