01. when you buy a jar of pickles only to open it and discover that they aren’t crisp with that satisfying salty-vinegary taste you wanted.
02. when you get a meatball hero and the meatballs are soft and bland instead of hearty and meaty. and when the meatballs are so big as to be unmanageable, thus also throwing off the proper ratio of meatballs to cheese and sauce. (the best meatball sub i’ve had is still from north beach, san francisco.) (as well as the best focaccia.) (i miss san francisco; it’s been a while since i’ve been.)
03. when you pick up a book you were excited for but it’s like the author’s only telling you a series of events and happenings instead of digging into the wonderful tension and conflict and anxiety that’s sitting right there for the taking. the novel (as a narrative form) lets you burrow into people’s heads and delve into the overwrought neuroses all people have in their own unique ways, so it’s quite disappointing when there are these delicious treasure troves of [what is essentially] panic just waiting to be exploited, only to go unexplored and altogether avoided. sigh. i’d rather hate a book than be disappointed by it.
“Looking mortality in the eye is no easy feat. To avoid the exercise, we choose to stay blindfolded, in the dark as to the realities of death and dying. But ignorance is not bliss, only a deeper kind of terror.”—Caitlin Doughty, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
01. back in brooklyn! it was great to be back in california again, but i am so very happy to be back in brooklyn.
02. tomorrow, i’ll be going to pick up the copy of colorless tsukuru tazaki i preordered weeks ago (sent the copy i had in LA to my cousin because she’s never read murakami!), and then i shall mosey over to williamsburg to do some writing! and then maybe get some pie on my way home … SOBS i’m so happy to be back.
03. brought back comments! because, i don’t know, i’d like to engage more … or something … it’s 2 am, and i’ve spent the whole day traveling, so my logic may be a little more muddled than usual. i’ve thought about moving this blog to another platform (like, maybe, wordpress), and i’ve also thought about whether or not i should try to enforce more of a “direction” on this blog, but then i decided that (a) i’m comfortable on the tumblr platform and (b) it’s a blog; i get to ramble; that’s fine.
(and i know i said “three things,” but this one’s important:
ONE MORE WEEK UNTIL ACCEPTANCE. preordered my copy a few weeks ago, too, which basically means i get to walk over to greenlight and pick up my copy next tuesday. and then promptly devour it. nom.)
Hello, I apologize for the out of the blue message but could you please recommend me a book? I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher In The Rye but I can't quite seem to get into Never Let Me Go. I would prefer if it on less that 300 pages. I realized I've never spent much time reading anything other than academic books and I'd like to change that. You seem to read a lot so I thought maybe you could help me out, I would really appreciate it.
hey! sorry for the slow reply, but i had to mull over this one for a bit because it’s been over a decade since i read to kill a mockingbird and i admit i wasn’t too personally keen on the catcher in the rye (i opine that i read it too late in life; if i’d read it as a late adolescent, i think i would have taken more away from it than i did). it’s also been a while since i’ve read a few of the listed titles, too, (one reason for the lack of personal blurbs), but they’re all books that sat with me over the years, and these are the titles that came to mind as i mulled over to kill a mockingbird and the catcher in the rye. they should all be less than or just over 300 pages, and it’s a mix of things — novels, non-fiction, plays.
- the bell jar, sylvia plath
- the glass menagerie and a streetcar named desire, tennessee williams
- i know why the caged bird sings, maya angelou
- the color purple, alice walker
- the diving bell and the butterfly, jean dominique bauby
- the sense of an ending, julian barnes
- the guest, hwang sok-young
- i’ll be there, shin kyung-sook
… ok this list feels both really obvious and really arbitrary … X: my apologies for that! i hope it helps a little, though! (:
and thanks for the Q! you’ve definitely encouraged me to pick up more from maya angelou and to get my butt into gear and finally read toni morrison!
“There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight. It takes forty-one seconds to climb a ladder three stories tall. It’s not easy to imagine the year 3012, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We have new capabilities now — strange powers we’re still getting used to. The mountains are a message from Aldrag the Wyrm-Father. Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.”—Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Midorikawa grudgingly shook his head. “Talent can be a nice thing to have sometimes. You look good, attract attention, and if you’re lucky, you make some money. Women flock to you. In that sense, having talent’s preferable to having none. But talent only functions when it’s supported by a tough, unyielding physical and mental focus. All it takes is one screw in your brain to come loose and fall off, or some connection in your body to break down, and your concentration vanishes, like the dew at dawn. A simple toothache, or stiff shoulders, and you can’t play the piano well. It’s true. I’ve actually experienced it. A single cavity, one aching shoulder, and the beautiful vision and sound I hoped to convey goes out the window. The human body’s that fragile. It’s a complex system that can be damaged by something very trivial, and in most cases once it’s damaged, it can’t easily be restored. A cavity or stiff shoulder you can get over, but there are a lot of things you can’t get past. If talent’s the foundation you rely on, and yet it’s so unreliable that you have no idea what’s going to happen to it the next minute, what meaning does it have?”
"Talent might be ephemeral," Haida replied, "and there aren’t many people who can sustain it their whole lives. But talent makes a huge spiritual leap possible. It’s an almost universal, independent phenomenon that transcends the individual."
Midorikawa pondered that for a while before replying. “Mozart and Schubert died young, but their music lives on forever. Is that what you mean?”
"That would be one example."
"That kind of talent is always the exception. Most people like that have to pay a price for their genius — through accepting foreshortened lives and untimely deaths. They strike a bargain, putting their lives on the line. Whether that bargain’s with God or the devil, I wouldn’t know."
”—Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
“But that wasn’t all there was to it. He was well aware that there was something more. Making love was a joining, a connection between one person and another. You receive something, and you also have to give.”—Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
in california until the 26th, and i’ve been here a few days now, and, as usual, it’s been a pretty packed few days, lots of driving, lots of catching up, lots of eating. it’s been awesome, but i’m thinking i ought to slow it down next week and do more reading and work on my book because my plan had been to try to finish it by the end of the month. i just couldn’t say no to a ticket out to california, though, not when apartment-hunting and moving (oh, i moved; did i mention that here?) and edan lepucki’s california all combined together to make me miss california intensely, like more than i’ve ever missed california since moving out to new york.
i miss my bookstores, though. i’ll never be able to leave new york simply for all the amazing, wonderful bookstores, all within an arm’s reach.
(acceptance is only 18 days away! i have it on preorder at greenlight, so i can go pick it up on pub day!) (september 2!)
anyway. it’s disgustingly hot (it hit 102 today). it’s awesome seeing old friends and family. i missed driving (as usual). i got a perm on tuesday (first one in twenty years), but i think i washed it out because i shampooed my hair too soon (oops) (not really) (idk still not a fan of perms). i actually haven’t read the new murakami yet. LA has the best korean food.
(also i dreamt last night that i’d gone to a farmer’s market and found a yellow melon and was super excited for it, but then i woke up and realized it was a dream and was sad. yellow melon! where can i find them here …???)
wrote a story a few years ago that i submitted to magazines last year. decided to put it on the internet instead. :3
the site has the most basic coding, but, wow, i’m braindead. it was a pretty marathon coding session, though, and required the least hair-pulling, and, before y’all get all, what’s the big deal over such a basic site, let’s keep in mind that (01) i am not a web designer/coder and (02) it’s been years since i looked at html/css.
oops, i changed the link, so i should probably update this. new link to my story is HERE. :D
The Korean War lasted three years, with millions either dead or separated. It never really ended but instead paused in the 1953 armistice exactly where it began, with Koreans on both sides of the 38th parallel. Historians often refer to it as the “forgotten war,” but no Korean considers it forgotten. Theirs is not a culture of forgetting. The war is everywhere in today’s Koreas.
There is, for example, the story of my father’s young female cousins, nursing students aged seventeen and eighteen, who disappeared during the war. Decades later, in the 1970s, their mother, my father’s aunt, received a letter from North Korea via Japan, the only contact her daughters ever made with her, and from that moment on, she was summoned to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency every few months on suspicion of espionage until she finally left South Korea for good and died in St. Antonio, Texas. The girls were never heard from again. And there was my uncle, my mother’s brother, who was just seventeen when he was abducted by North Korean soldiers at the start of the war, in June 1950. He was never seen again. He might or might not have been taken to Pyongyang, and it was this suspended state of not knowing that drove my mother’s mother nearly crazy, and my mother, and to some degree me, who inherited their sorrow.
Stories such as these abound in South Korea, and probably North Korea, if its people were allowed to tell them. Separation haunts the affected long after the actual incident. It is a perpetual act of violation. You know that the missing are there, just a few hours away, but you cannot see them or write to them or call them. It could be your mother trapped on the other side of the border. It could be your lover whom you will long for the rest of your life. It could be your child whom you cannot get to, although he calls out your name and cries himself to sleep every night. From Seoul, Pyongyang looms like a shadow, about 120 miles away, so close but impossible to touch. Decades of such longing sicken a nation. The loss is remembered, and remembered, like an illness, a heartbreak from which there is no healing, and you are left to wonder what happened to the life you were supposed to have together. For those of us raised by mothers and fathers who experienced such trauma firsthand, it is impossible not to continue this remembering.
Hey there! I've read your reviews on the books you read and I was just wondering... How do you go about writing them? I'm supposed to hand one up to my teacher and I'm going to use 'The Interestings' :) (I can see from your posts you love that book) And ye.. So are there any thugs or formats to follow when writing a book review? I'm sorry if this sounded like a stupid question XP But I really don't know what's appropriate to him cos I'm sure he wouldn't want a page full of 'fangirling' XD
hey! haha it’s funny you ask me this because i feel like that’s what i do — fangirl.
if i were to try writing a proper review, though … there’s usually a theme or idea or character or something in a book that sticks with me, so i like to start from there and build the review around that. i’d also try to summarize the book in one paragraph early on, so there’s context for the reader (always assuming that he/she hasn’t read the book), and then go on to discuss the characters, the writing itself, and the story overall — as well as whether or not the author was successful in telling the story he/she wanted to tell.
especially with a book like the interestings where i feel like there are a few really big themes that wolitzer set out to write about — i’d explore how she went about presenting them and the different ways she explored them and whether or not she did so effectively.
or something like that. but i’m obsessed with the ways wolitzer talks about talent/potential and envy and friendship. sorry, i feel like this was massively unhelpful. ):
- moving is expensive. i mean, i always knew it was, but i’ve actually never hired movers before, but i am this time because i have furniture and moving’s already exhausting and painful.
- also i have a lot of books. and i don’t just have a lot of books — i’ve amassed quite a collection of hardcover books because i fell in love with the solidness and the quality of hardcover books in the last few years. also i’ve started reading a lot of new releases now that i obsessively keep an eye on publishing.
- moving also means that my world has been overrun with boxes again.
- i think i’ve moved roughly 8-9 times in the last ten years. which makes this move number 9 or 10.
- all this apartment hunting nonsense means that the writing has slowed massively this month. apartment hunting makes me weirdly emotional — i think it’s the stress (i don’t stress a lot, but i have specific stressors? and apartment-hunting is a giant one) — so that affected the writing, and i’ve also had quite a few story kinks to work out, so that, also, affected the writing. that isn’t to say no work got down — most of the kinks have been worked out, even if a lot of writing/editing itself did not, which really just goes to show that the number one thing to writing a book is to show up, sit at your desk, and shove your way through book problems, even if it means days of being unfruitful and getting increasingly frustrated. problems aren’t going to work themselves out; you have to sit there and do the work; and the payoff is wonderful.
- so, yes, the book is progressing nicely.
- my deadline keeps getting pushed back, though, but i’m sticking with my end-of-summer deadline. I CAN SEE THE END. seriously. the end is visible. and i. can. not. wait.
(- not in the sense of being sick of the book but in the sense of being excited to move on to the next step and take this book to the agent and work on it with her and make it into a beautiful creature ready to be shown to the world.)
- i’m excited about this book, y’all. i mean, i’m sure all writers are excited about their books, but, on one hand, it’s like, wow i wrote a book, and, on the other, it’s like, OMG I WROTE A BOOK.
- and, with that, i think i will go eat something and kick around some cardboard boxes.
no one said it was going to be easy, this writing a book thing.
no one said it wasn’t going to hurt sometimes, that, sometimes, it was going to be painfully lonely and isolating. that there would be whole days (plural) when you wouldn’t be able to find the right words or the right people or the right spaces, when you would write words that were disingenuous and had no heart, words you’d throw away the next day. that there would be roads you wouldn’t want to walk down or doors you didn’t want to open because there were loads of pain and self-doubt behind them, but that, in the end, you’d have to find the courage to face it all anyway because, if you didn’t, the words on the page would be simply that — words printed on a page, empty attempts at bravado, no heart pulsing through them. so, no, no one ever said it was going to be easy.
you always knew, though, that it would be the most meaningful thing you could ever do with your life. and that’s why you do it. because there’s something inside you that says that this is what you must do and, if you don’t, you’ll always have this emptiness inside you that leeches the color from life because, if you aren’t writing, if you aren’t bleeding onto the page, then, you’re only half-assing life.
so you do it.
and you’ll finish this book, and, before its fate is known, you’ll sit down and start doing it all over again.
For the most part the connections that emerged from assembling these interviews were literary rather than personal. Mo Yan was influenced by Günter Grass, and they were both inspired by William Faulkner, who is clearly a beacon to Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates, the latter of whom taught Jonathan Safran Foer, who it is often said borrows from David Foster Wallace — although Foer did not read him until recently — and Wallace himself pointed his compass to Don DeLillo, who on the subject of inspiration keeps his own counsel. And around it goes.
This fellowship — the deep connection of writer to writer as readers — is a hopeful thing, because it means that it is open to anyone who is a reader and who plans to be a writer.
”—John Freeman, How to Read a Novelist, “U and Me: The Hard Lessons of Idolizing John Updike”
“I have always felt there is something electrifying about meeting novelists. It isn’t like running into a celebrity, where your eye readjusts to the true physical contours of someone seen primarily on-screen. It has to do with grasping that the creator of a fictional world, a universe that lives inside you as a reader while also feeling strangely disembodied, is not as interior as that world but alive: flesh and blood.”—John Freeman, How to Read a Novelist, “U and Me: The Hard Lessons of Idolizing John Updike”
“This was a time of life, she understood, in which you might not know what you were, but that was all right. You judged people not on their success — almost no one they knew was successful at age twenty-two, and no one had a nice apartment, owned anything of value, dressed in expensive clothes, or had any interest in making money — but on their appeal. The time period between the ages of, roughly, twenty to thirty was often amazingly fertile. Great work might get done during this ten-year slice of time. Just out of college, they were gearing up, ambitious not in a calculating way, but simply eager, not yet tired.”—Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”—Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Hey! I really love your posts, they're awesome. As I read them, I was wondering whether you listen to music when you read books? If you do, what kind of music? (Because for me, I really like to listen to music that fits the particular part of the book that I'm reading. It helps to bring out the atmosphere.) or you think listening to music when reading a book is a big no no? I'm just pretty curious :)
hey, thanks for the lovely message/Q! (:
i’m a huge music listener and am pretty much always listening to music, even when i’m writing, which i feel is sort of unusual? idk, i know more people who want/need silence when writing, or maybe that’s just my pool of peers.
when i’m reading, i listen to whatever i’m in the mood for personally, not necessarily something that fits the book i’m reading, but the volume gets turned down when i’m really into a book. i listen to a lot of korean artists — nell’s my favourite band, and other favourites are eaeon, mot, monni, jaurim, dear cloud, and 3rd line butterfly — and i like rock/indie in general (i love the sound of guitars). my favourite singer-songwriter is a lovely woman named vienna teng, and i’m always excited for more from metric and missy higgins and radiohead. i admit there aren’t very many bands/artists i’m super crazy into anymore, other than nell maybe, and i have phases — like, two weeks ago, it was coldplay, specifically “paradise,” but, right now, i’m obsessed with hillsong’s “oceans,” though maybe i guess i shouldn’t say “right now” because i’ve been floating back towards nell since yesterday … anyway, generally, i like music that has atmosphere and tone and puts me in good, floaty headspace when i’m reading/writing.
when i’m writing, i definitely look for music that fits the mood of whatever i’m writing — i like making up soundtracks, which also means that i listen to a fair number of film soundtracks (joe hisaishi, clint mansell, dario marianelli are favs), and sometimes i’ll actually pick up some music from movie trailers because trailer music is all about tension and mood and emotion. i also listen to my fair share of classical music — i default towards beethoven, brahms, mozart, rachmaninoff, elgar, dvorak, chopin, debussy, some holst and tchaikovsky — with a preference for full orchestral/choral or piano pieces.
so i guess i tend to gravitate towards rock/indie and classical? and boa. boa will always be my pop bias. :D haha maybe one day i’ll make a mix of music i find myself going back to when reading/writing.