july reads!

july reads!  the common thing about all my july reads?  (they’re all written by women, but also) i read each book from cover-to-cover in one sitting.

twenty-eight.  the hen who believed she could fly, hwang sun-mi.

just because you’re the same kind doesn’t mean you’re all one happy family.  the important thing is to understand each other.  that’s love!  sprout ran on, elated, bursting into song.  (106)

this is one beautifully made book — seriously, it’s beautiful, and the illustrations are fantastic.

… y’know, i’ve been sitting on this july reading recap because i’ve been trying to figure out what to say about this book.  it’s an allegory, and it’s great, and there’s a whole lot in it to talk about, and yet i can’t come up with words.  i think i need to read it again, chew on it some more, and actually write things down after i’ve read it because it’s a slim little book but there’s so much packed into it.  i definitely recommend it, but i think i’ll have to come back to this later after i’ve read it again.

on a related aside, i’ve kind of hit a point in my reading of korean literature where i’ve tired of reading in-translation.  it’s not that the translations are bad or poorly done because they’re not, but i think there are limits in translation because there are things that inevitably get lost in that scramble between languages.  and, as someone who can read korean and wants to get better at it, there’s also a sort of kick-in-the-ass motivation there, too.  which is why i did buy the english translation of gong ji-young’s our happy time but set it aside to read it in korean … it takes me much longer, but there is no better way of improving my korean, soooo …!

twenty-nine.  my salinger year, joanna rakoff.

regardless, there was something about that modest advance, that initial rejection, that soothed me.  salinger had not always been salinger.  salinger had once sat at his desk, trying to figure out what made a story, how to structure a novel, how to be a writer, how to be.  (222)

read this on the fourth of july whilst sprawled out on my sofa with a delightful breeze coming in through the windows — i have to admit that, while i enjoyed it tremendously while reading it, this isn’t a book that really stuck with me.  it made for a great read in the moment, though, very engrossing, though i honestly didn’t care much for her coyness (i can’t think of a better word for it) — it’s not like you can’t google salinger’s agent/agency, so all the masking of identities seemed a little coy to me.

thirty.  everything i never told you, celeste ng.

and then, as if the tears are telescopes, she begins to see more clearly:  the shredded posters and pictures, the rubble of books, the shelf prostrate at her feet.  everything that she had wanted for lydia, which lydia had never wanted but had embraced anyway.  a dull chill creeps over her.  perhaps — and this thought chokes her — that had dragged lydia underwater at last.  (247)

this was incredible.  SO incredible.  i knew nothing about this when i purchased it, but i was browsing at greenlight when i picked it up and was intrigued by the title and started flipping through it.  and, then, when i got home and started reading it, i couldn’t stop until i was done.

it’s amazing.  it’s a beautiful, heart-breaking portrait of grief and loss and how our expectations of the people we love can become burdens and how no one really means to fuck anyone up but it just happens and how it’s out of our control.  it’s a beautiful look into family and lost dreams and the ways we try to reclaim our dreams through other means, and i actually very rarely say this, but it’s also a wonderful depiction of being asian-american because ng isn’t obvious about it or draws attention to it in a fingerpointing “this is crucial” way.  the characters’ asianness is simply part of who they are; it’s not what defines them.

there was a lot that resonated with me personally, too, so that didn’t hurt.  i highly, highly, highly recommend this.

thirty-one.  california, edan lepucki.

she would have understood, too, that all the talking in the world couldn’t give everything away, that a person was always capable of keeping secrets.  it might have saved her from feeling betrayed by her husband here at the end of the world.  (110)

if i were to point out a specific thing i’d say made me love calfiornia, it’d be how prescient it felt.  it’s a dystopian novel, yes, but it feels very present-day, and i think it’s because lepucki presents a world that seems very real, like this world could very much naturally head into the direction of the world presented in the novel.  like, this is a dystopian novel that doesn’t feel like a reach or like it’s set in some distant future but one that could feasibly be the world of tomorrow, and, on that level, it was also really fun to read as someone who has lived for a very long time just outside los angeles and is familiar with the specific locations she references in the novel.

the other thing i loved about california is its portrait of a marriage because i found it to be refreshingly honest.  i can’t say i necessarily liked either frida or cal, but, at the same time, even as i type out those words, i wonder why that’s so important to note (i’m not keen on all this whole “likability” thing that keeps being talked about; characters should feel like real, fleshed-out people; and real, fleshed-out people aren’t always solely likable or unlikable).  the important thing (i think) is that both frida and cal feel like real people in a real marriage — not everything about it is perfect, and they both fall privy to the mistake of keeping secrets and assuming things about the other.  their marriage suffers from this lack of communication, even if some of this withholding is done with the intention of somehow protecting or helping each other through it, and, all throughout, i was rooting for the both of them and mentally groaning whenever they would decide not to communicate when they really needed to be talking to each other.

i also had the privilege of hearing lepucki twice (in one week, no less!) when she was in nyc for her book tour, and she’s also super fun and awesome in-person.  :D

(haha, also, at mcnally, lepucki was asked what she was reading next, and she said she’d just gotten everything i never told you, and, in my head, i was all, OMG you’re going to love it; it’s SO AMAZING.)

currently finishing up another read of never let me go (ishiguro is doing an event at the 92y next march, and i have tickets, and i am SO FRIGGIN’ EXCITED) and just read/examined peter mendelsund’s cover and am reading euny hong’s the birth of korean cool.  which, meh title, but i’m interested in the content, and, at the same time, i’m so personally close to k-pop because it was my adolescence that i’m weirdly very protective of it and get very bristly when reading analyses about it.  even when the person writing about it is korean.  haha interesting, the things you learn about yourself, eh?