the first chapter of the history of love is just sosososo good.
ah, i apologise for taking so long to reply to this; i wanted to reply to it sooner and started writing a reply a month ago; but the truth is that my knowledge of modern korean literature is so limited and i wanted to read up more on it first. (unfortunately, that didn’t happen.)
as it goes, i’ve only read two korean authors thus far (and in translation, it must be noted), and i’d recommend them both — kim young-ha (i have the right to destroy myself and your republic is calling you) and shin kyung-sook (please look after mom) (i believe shin has another book being published by knopf this spring, i’ll be right there, and another novel by kim was published last year, black flower).
for kim, on a narrative level, i’d say that your republic is calling you is more accessible, whereas i have the right to destroy myself is more interesting tonally and conceptually. when i read i have the right to destroy myself, i was reminded a lot about haruki murakami actually, but any similar tonal qualities disappeared in your republic is calling you. of the two, i think i personally enjoyed i have the right to destroy myself better because it has a quality that kind of sticks to you, but i don’t think it necessarily achieves all its potential. it was kim’s debut novel, after all.
for shin, i loved please look after mom — i talked about it briefly in my 2012 recap — and i think shin does a stellar job at capturing and portraying post-war korea and, specifically, post-war korean motherhood. i didn’t really care for the ending, though, but the ending wasn’t bad or lackluster enough to reduce my enthusiasm for the novel, but i also admit that please look after mom resonated with me very strongly on a personal level because the character of the mother is very much my paternal grandmother. the discussion around the novel is interesting, too.
as for other great modern korean literature, i’m still very new to it myself. i found this fabulous post (“what to start reading in translated korean literature”), so i’d recommend starting with that. i’m sorry i can’t make any more suggestions from my own personal reading at the moment, but i will definitely be reading more korean lit and posting quotes from books i read as well as my thoughts about them! i just picked up hwang sok-young, who i am super stoked to read!
again, my apologies for the super slow reply. i hope you haven’t disappeared and given up on me ever getting back to you … T_T
(i feel like i should also note here that i might be really slow at replying, but, if you ask me anything about books, i will always reply. i love talking books! it just … might take me a bit.)
(also, i believe gong ji-young’s our happy time has been picked up to be published in english in spring 2014!)
all my life i’ve had two loves (three, if you count new york city): books and music. music gets my heart ticking, but words anchor me to something more real than reality — and i’m sitting here at my desk, crim book open before me, highlighter tucked into its pages, reading the english patient instead because these words so carefully, lovingly, obsessively chosen and assembled and crafted mean more to me than culpability ever can.
i started reading man walks into a room on the plane back to nyc, which got me thinking about my favourite books because (01) i love making lists and (02) man walks into a room happens to be one of my favourite books. i know the history of love is overwhelmingly people’s favourite when it comes to krauss, but man walks into a room is mine, and this is my third read of it thus far.
- kazuo ishiguro’s never let me go (this one’s a no-brainer)
- ian mcewan’s on chesil beach (it’s so wonderfully compact!)
- david eagleman’s sum (you’d think vignettes would get dull after a while, but they’re all so damn charming and so human)
- charlotte brontë’s jane eyre (for one, it’s so beautifully written!)
- emily brontë’s wuthering heights (this is, too, plus i feel for heathcliff)
- sylvia plath’s unabridged journals (i find them highly comforting)
i’d like to “heart” jonathan franzen some more here: my literary crush is overflowing here, folks, because i’m loving farther away. sure, his essay on bird-hunting/poaching in the mediterranean upset me, but i’m thinking that was partly the point, and his essays have generally been tugging at all the different areas of my heart and brain. (my brain goes into these twitchy spasms whenever authors talk literary community these days.) i’ve been laughing, cooing, tearing; it’s been pretty awesome, this emotional spectrum covered; and this may be the first essay collection i’m reading in order from cover to cover.
also, this passage still does not cease to be one of the most powerful passages i’ve ever read (and i’m also sure i quoted this before here, but i don’t want to go digging through my archive at the moment):
One of the last times I talked to [David Foster Wallace] after that, in August, on the phone, he asked me to tell him a story of how things would get better. I repeated back to him a lot of what he’d been saying to me in our conversations over the previous year. I said he was in a terrible and dangerous place because he was trying to make real changes as a person and as a writer. I said that the last time he’d been through near-death experiences, he’d emerged and written, very quickly, a book that was light-years beyond what he’d been doing before his collapse. I said he was a stubborn control freak and know-it-all — “So are you!” he shot back at me — and I said that people like us are so afraid to relinquish control that sometimes the only way we can force ourselves to open up and change is to bring ourselves to an access of misery and the brink of self-destruction. I said he’d undertaken his change in medication because he wanted to grow up and have a better life. I said I thought his best writing was ahead of him. And he said: “I like that story. Could you do me a favor and call me up every four or five days and tell me another story like it?”
Unfortunately I only had one more chance to tell him the story, and by then he wasn’t hearing it. He was in horrible, minute-by-minute anxiety and pain. The next times I tried to call him, after that, he wasn’t picking up the phone or returning messages. He’d gone down into the well of infinite sadness, beyond the reach of story, and he didn’t make it out. But he had a beautiful, yearning innocence, and he was trying.
- Jonathan Franzen, Farther Away, “David Foster Wallace”
gah, there’s just SO MUCH i’ve been wanting to write about everything i’ve been reading! i’ve started writing all these book reviews, and i’ve got all these thoughts about north korea and about a few specific essays from farther away, (and i’ve also got this insanely long song-by-song review of nell’s <slip away> mostly written, too), but, instead, all i’ve got thus far are these little blurbs and a bunch of quotes. now that the year is wrapping up, though, it’s also time to start going over everything i read this past year, so, hopefully, all these things i want to write will start to be written and organised.