Sunday, October 11, 2009

End of Vacation

Well, it's back to work tomorrow for Tuttle after two weeks off thanks to exams, Chuseok and class trips. I have detailed some of the things I did in the nine entries below, but here is some other stuff I did:
  • visited the National Museum of Korea at Ichon
  • went to playoff game at Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon (Doosan wins, 4 - 1)
  • ate a steak at Outback Steakhouse in Korea for the first time (it was good, if a bit pricey)
  • met a guy who saw the fire which burned down the Crystal Palace when he was a child
  • read. A lot. I have been reading novels lately, a kind of renaissance for me. One benefit of public transport on the personal level has been the time it frees up by not having to drive to get someplace. I always have a book with me these days.

In the past two weeks I read the following books:
  • The Wings by Yi Sang - the first book printed in the "Portable Library of Korean Literature" series from Jimoondang Publishers in Seoul. Yi Sang is one of Korea's most lauded modern writers, and here is collected three of his short stories, all dealing with marriage and estrangement. Not everybody's cup of tea, but brutal honesty drips off the pages.
  • Old School by Tobias Wolff - This is the guy that wrote This Boy's Life. Set during senior year at an elite prep school in 1961, it concerns the quarterly fiction competition, the prize for which is a private audience with the school's visiting writer. It slumps in the middle with a long literary critique of Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway, though this is for important plot value. Still, it is beautifully written and truthful.
  • Photoshop Murder by Kim Young-ha - also part of the "Portable Library" series, this one includes a well-written but ultimately predictable crime story, and a somewhat better, amusing slice-of-life story about a guy who's having a bad day. He is due to make an important presentation to the board of his company (on how best to economize on toilet paper) when all the conveniences of of modern urban life suddenly become very inconvenient.
  • A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball by Cho Se-hui - from the same series. Everyone loves a good opening line: "People called Father a dwarf. They were right. Father was a dwarf. Unfortunately, people were right only about that." It tells the story one family dispossessed when their shantytown in eastern Seoul (Paradise District) is razed to make way for a high-rise apartment complex. It was written in 1976, and translated in 2002.
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff - I don't know if writing is getting better, my standards are dropping, or I've just been lucky at judging books by their covers lately, but everything I've read in the past several months has been really good. And this one may be the best of the lot. Set during the Nazi siege on Leningrad, it is the story of two youths--a looter and a deserter--spared execution in order to scavenge a dozen eggs for a Colonel's daughter's wedding cake. It takes over 300 pages to relate their four days of adventure, and I couldn't turn them fast enough. Gripping, funny, horrifying, and moving. Highly recommended.
  • The Other Side of Dark Remembrance by Lee Kyun-young - I've now read seven or eight of the Portable Library series from Jimoondang, and this is the best one yet. A Seoul salaryman wakes up in an inn in a strange part of town with no memory of how he got there. He realizes he has misplaced his satchel containing important papers for his firm. As he retraces his steps of the previous night, he gradually learns he is seeking not the papers, but clues about his past, the family from whom he was separated by the War--even his proper age. A subtle but powerful examination of the effect of the War on Korean culture.

Bonus Photograph: I had lunch at the Korean cafe when I visited the National Museum. I got kimchi jjigae dweji 김치찌개 돼지, which is kimchi stew with pork:

1 comment:

Foreigner Joy said...

Ooo~ I am also on the look out for a reading list.