about korean literature

i am pretty indiscriminately buying korean literature these days.  mcnally jackson does a lovely job of stocking titles from the library of korean literature (published by dalkey archive press with LIT korea), and i dare say i'm doing a lovely job of buying them, not even bothering to talk myself out of another purchase of another book because i'm starving for korean literature, as much of it as i can get my hands on, even if i'm accumulating books faster than i'm reading them.

the way i see it, there should always be more within reach to read; that's how reading works.

one of the things i've learned about myself since i moved to new york city three-and-a-half years ago is that i'm fiendishly proud of being korean.  i was born in queens and raised outside los angeles; i've never lived in korea; and the longest period of time i've ever been in korea has been two weeks.  i've never been outside of seoul (except to visit the DMZ once, but does that even count?  i doubt it), and i don't call it the motherland or would never consider moving there, and yet --?  i speak, read, and write korean; i'm more attuned to the goings-on of chungmuro and the korean music industry; and i crave korean food, cook korean food, try to feed all my friends korean food.

literature is the one area where i "fell behind."  for so long, it's been (or it's felt) so hard to find korean literature-in-translation stateside, and, for a while, there were only a tiny handful of authors to be readily found, like kim young-ha or shin kyung-sook, maybe even hwang sok-young.  recently, though, it's gotten easier; dalkey archive press has done a brilliant job with its library of korean literature (published with LTI korea) in introducing more unknown korean authors to the english-speaking world; and i love that i can sit at a book reading and hear buzz about han kang's the vegetarian.

i want more, though -- a lot more.  i want there to be a section for korea in bookstores, not just japan or china, and i want there to be a wider range of authors represented, a wider range of stories told, more more more, a lot more.  that makes me wonder what i can do to help this along, if there's anything i can do because i feel like a small insignificant human in a sea of people, but i'm a reader, and i don't know -- if i'm out there wanting this, there must be someone else out there wanting it, too, because i'm not that unique or special a person, and maybe there's another and another, and we can all make this happen.

i read a headline somewhere recently that the major publishing houses stateside have published significantly less in translation this year, and that makes me sad.  i'm guilty of having read the headline but not the article, but it makes me wonder if that's because americans are less likely to read books-in-translation or because editors simply aren't interested in books-in-translation or --?  either way, whatever the reason, what a tremendous loss that is for readers.