the accusation, post zero.

i have not abandoned this project a week in.  i actually finished reading the first story, "탈북기" ('the record of a north korean refugee"), over the weekend, but it's taking me longer to go through and fill in my vocab blanks and write this post.  overestimating myself and underestimating the project at hand -- who's surprised?

the post will come soon; i am working on it, focusing all my available time on it actually; but, for now, as an update, here are the photos i took for each day i thought i'd have a post ready to go.  (:

thanks for your patience!

the accusation, introduction.


hello,  hello!

so!  we are going to head into a fairly ambitious project over the next few weeks!

last month, it was announced that grove press had acquired the US rights for bandi's the accusation, the first book written by a north korean (still residing in north korea) to be published.  it was smuggled out of the country and published in south korea in summer 2014 (this shows how much i keep up-to-date with korean publishing), and the accusation is slated to be published in the US (by grove) and the UK (by serpent's tail) in spring 2017.

no one ever said i was a patient person, and spring 2017 is a long time away.  it also seems kind of dumb to sit around and wait for a translation when i can actually read (and want to read) korean (albeit slowly and laboriously), and, seeing as i had a lot of fun blogging about george eliot's middlemarch as i was reading it (and find it motivating to keep reading), i thought that i would read the accusation and blog about it!  :D  part of it is an accountability thing, part of it is that i think this is an important book to read and talk about and spread awareness about, and part of it is that i enjoy sharing things on this blog but realize that i don't utilize this space well (i'm still figuring out how to go about doing monthly round-ups, especially now that i've started using instagram to post short reviews).

so!  the accusation!  which, okay, seems like a brilliant idea now, might seem less so in two weeks when i'm drowning in korean ... but, hey, let's give it a go!

before we get started, here are a few thoughts going in!

it's not like i'm walking into this book with expectations or wants that deviate from the expectations and wants i demand from any other book.  i do go into it curious, looking for something that's genuine and not sensational or sentimental, something that shows us what it is to be a person, a human being, in the world.  i'm looking for truth, and i don't mean this in a way that implies that i'm looking for something that seems non-fictional or autobiographical but simply in the way that i expect all fiction to be truthful, to hold to integrity and commitment to authentic story-telling, to getting to the heart, not the politics.  

i'm also curious about language -- i am not an academic authority on the korean language and don't know as much about korean dialects as i wish i did; i can obviously distinguish between them; but i can't pinpoint most of them geographically or tell you about specific differences or phrasings that make them unique.  that said, i have heard a little of the pyongyang dialect, and i'm curious about what korean sounds like, reads like, when it hasn't modernized or globalized the way (or to the extent) that korean from the south has.

these are just theories, though, thoughts i've been mulling over while waiting for this book to arrive.  i could turn out to be very wrong.  that would be fun, too.

also, i feel like i should state that i'm not interested in who bandi is; for one, i think that kind of curiosity very much holds someone's life in the balance; and i think there's a selfish recklessness in a desire to satiate that kind of curiosity.  i'm not going to be entertaining questions or thoughts about who bandi is or whether or not we should be doubting the background of the accusation -- i'm taking it at face value as a book that was written by a north korean and smuggled out of the country.

the accusation is a collection of short stories, so my original plan was to read a story a week and, thus, post about a story a week.  however, my reading in korean looks something like this because i'm actually stopping to look up words:


you can guess how laborious a process this is.

this means there will be new posts on fridays or saturdays, but they probably won't line up cleanly with stories.  which is fine, as long as we make slow but steady progress on this!

huzzah!  let's do this!  go go go!

pause, part two.

mmm, okay, i'm declaring a pause until friday.  i did very little reading today and will most likely not get a chance to do much reading tomorrow, then i'm taking a red eye tomorrow night, which means my entire being will be out of commission on thursday -- so we shall return to this on friday!

have a great week, all!  see y'all when i'm back home in brooklyn!

hello monday! (150511) aka middlemarch, part six.


currently in california, which means family, friends, and tons of amazing food that is not as great in new york.  like korean food.  and tacos.  and philz, but philz isn't even in new york.

i [clearly] did not finish middlemarch last week (oh, well, stupid ambitions!), but, luckily for me, middlemarch is available on oyster books!  i'm glad i didn't have to lug that brick of a book across the country with me but still get to progress along in the novel and hopefully finish it soon.  it's hard in california, though -- i only have so many days to see so many people and eat so much food.  ^^

i've been much too immersed in the world of middlemarch.  i dreamt that i was in middlemarch yesterday.  that's a sure sign that i'm obsessed or preoccupied with something ...

i must confess that i'm a little weary of middlemarch.  it's been over a week since i dove into this world, and i haven't been reading anything else, which in and of itself is pretty remarkable because i tend to have a few books going at the same time.  and, when i pick one to stick to, i finish it relatively quickly.

it's not that middlemarch is dull or not interesting.  i am drawn to the characters, some more than others, and i have opinions on all of them.  like, i don't necessarily like dorothea, but i sympathize with her -- i understand why she deferred so much to causabon, and i get most of her motivations, though i also find her "goodness" irritating.  i like will because he tends to say things out loud.  i can't stand rosemary and her general immaturity, her self-centeredness, her lack of substance, and i decidedly don't like her after she told will about the condition in causabon's will -- she didn't do so out of concern for a friend but for her own ego in her own self-centered way.  fred's silly in similar ways, but he seems generally harmless, though, i don't know, i don't want mary to marry him because she deserves better.  i like farebrother.  i don't think much of lydgate, honestly, except that he has no one to blame for the financial problems he's gotten himself into because he went into marriage with these stupid ideals (there's a passage about this, but i marked it up in my hard copy, and i am not willing to scroll through middlemarch on my ipad and find it at the moment).  i have no patience for mr. brooke because he seems like a slitherer-outer, and i don't like bulstrode, either, because what the hell -- lying to a woman about the whereabouts of her daughter so he could marry her (the mother) and inherit her fortune, then, decades later, telling the grandson that, oh, i knew where your mother was, but i didn't tell her mother, but, here, i'll give you x-amount of money per year and offer you these other financial incentives now, so we're cool, yeah?

at the same time, though, i don't necessarily care.  i'm not that invested in any of the characters or in any of the happenings, and part of it is also the writing.  eliot doesn't linger in moments, and she doesn't really explore things beyond what is happening in the scene -- like, we do get to get inside these characters' heads and see what they're thinking and why they are or are not saying the things they're thinking, but then that's it, and we're continuing along this ride.  the closest analogy i can think of is the backlot studio ride at universal studios:  you sit on a tram that travels through different sets, whether it be a town set or an earthquake set or a flash flood set or a collapsing bridge, but you don't sit and linger in the feelings each set is staged to make you feel because the tram moves steadily on.  middlemarch makes me think of that because eliot doesn't make much of the emotional beats -- in fact, i find the novel rather flat emotionally.  it's not that emotion or feeling is entirely absent, but middlemarch lacks resonance, so it fails to take deep root, even if i'm spending so much time with this book, in this world, with these characters.

i wonder if i'll remember this book because of the sheer effort of the project?  blogging it has definitely helped, though, because it's made me pay better attention and try to think about things, like the role money plays, which i'll talk about on another day, or prejudices or generally just big picture things i might lose track of usually.  blogging has also helped in maintaining motivation in pressing on with this novel because, to be honest, i probably would have set it aside if i hadn't committed to blogging it.  and i would still be tempted to set it aside if it weren't the blogging thing.  and if i weren't so fucking close to the end.  i'm on BOOK SEVEN.  seven of eight!  OMG.

at the same time, i must add that i have been enjoying middlemarch.  sure, blogging it might have been extra motivation not to give up, but middlemarch has genuinely been enjoyable and generally entertaining.  the pages haven't been lagging much, and eliot really is an insightful, comprehensive writer, so middlemarch has also been a very thoughtful read.

that said, i'm also excited that the end is nigh, and i'm sooooo looking forward to diving into other books.  i can't wait to start atul gawande's being mortal (metropolitan books, 2014), and, once i get back to new york later this week, i have to read margaret atwood's the stone mattress (nan a. talese, 2014) for book club on saturday.  i'm not quite sure where i'll go after that -- thinking of picking up kate bolick's spinster (crown, 2015) and still have to finish michael cunningham's the hours (FSG, 1998) and amy rowland's the transcriptionist (alonquin, 2014) -- but we'll see what my reading brain desires when we get to that point.

i'm going to focus on middlemarch until i've finished it, then finish rebecca mead's my life in middlemarch (which i LOVE -- i'm glad i read middlemarch if only because i got to read my life in middlemarch), so my last middlemarch post will focus on the mead!  thanks so much to those who've stuck with my middlemarch posts!  we're almost at the end!  woohoo!


hullo!  there was supposed to be a middlemarch post today, but it's been a busy day, and i'm still not packed or fully cleaned, and i'm leaving for JFK at 4:30 a.m.  i did start writing a post, though, but i'm thinking i'd like to get a smidgen of sleep at one point -- or at least be able to pack and clean and such.  therefore, i'm going to say we'll take a weekend off from middlemarch, and i will leave you with two important things to note from today:

  1. i got to hear michael ondaatje (as part of a panel called "the art of mentoring") (i volunteered at the pen world voices festival today).  one of my favorite books is the english patient (god, the language in that book; it's so rich and lush and beautiful -- the kind of language you get drunk on), so this was a huge, huge deal.
  2. i saw an advanced copy of purity out in the wild.  it walked past me before the event, then i walked past it after the event, and, as hyperbolic as this sounds, i died a little inside both times because, omg, i want it.  it's so ugly pretty, and it looks nice and long (yes, i know i wrote about being wary of long books two days ago, but i've never really felt like franzen's novels felt too long), and fuck september for being so far away.

have a great weekend, all!