We have had breathtaking days lately, sunny and cool, but warm in the afternoons. I try to walk a mile or four every day, but there were days even a few weeks ago when it was too hot. The air felt too yellow, if you know what I mean. Now, it feels as though I could walk forever.
I have this stupid posterior vitreous detachment in my eye, which is not horrible but makes it difficult to read — and of course, this means I have been pining to read books again. I was blown away by Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka, which I didn’t get to when it came out. It reminded me of The Dispossessed and Kafka. The perspective is a tour de force: the protagonist is so subtly drawn that I believed simulaneously in her timidity and courage, and entirely through her actions. I am still thinking about how Karin builds her world here. I had had an adjacent idea for a story with slightly similar rules, but for the first time in my life I feel I don’t need to write something, because it was just done by someone else. Better.
I am tiptoeing forward on American Tour, very happy to have put Chapter Seven behind me and to turn to Chapter Eight, where I switch perspectives for a while. There are still many chapters — though in fact it’s only five or six more, and I have scenes written already in some of them. But…so many words still to write! Today I took away from the book, but I can’t say I spent my day wisely.
I have been reading Old Korean Maxims and Proverbs, by Tae Hung Ha, from a South Korean university press in 1970. Here, have a few:
- This is where a pheasant was roasted and eaten. The book includes commentary: “This is said of people who leave no trace of their questionable acts.”
- Hang oneself on an eggplant vine. “A man who goes to hang himself does not pick the kind of tree[…]anything is all right to a man in a hurry.”
- A cow in the stream. “A cow in the stream eats grass on both sides of the water. So this means a man has plenty to eat.”
- The shell of a clam is free from rust. “A man of pure heart is not tainted with bad habits.”
- A day-old colt returns from a trip to Seoul. “A very young colt tha visited Seoul would not have appreciated the splendors of the Metropolis. So extensive sightseeing brings no cultural wealth to a little child.”