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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

South Korean films are among the best today; a new piece of South Korean fiction in the New Yorker

Fine piece of fiction in the current double-issue (how do they get away with that?) New Yorker, Caring for Plants, by South Korean writer making I would guess first English-language magazine appearance, Hye-young Pyon. I'll consider the piece as a short story for the moment, and found it gripping and engaging right from the start, as we get a vivid "close-3rd-person" (i.e.,  told in 3rd person but never leaving the POV of the protagonist) of a 40-something man who is severely injured in a car accident that, we quickly learn, took the life of his wife, a passenger in his speeding car. Over the course of the story we follow his painful, gradual, partial recovery; he eventually leaves the hospital and goes home, under the care of his mother-in-law, w/ whom he had a tense relationship and who of course blames him for her daughter's death. The story touches on the creepy and horrendous as we gradually understand the magnitude of the mother-in-law's mistreatment of this man, and his frightening incapacity to do anything to improve his fate - it's a horror story in a way, but of a true-life sort, the horror of being imprisoned in a nonfunctional body (for ex., he can barely speak and cannot use a telephone). The story ends with a weird twist that I'm not sure I got - I think I did - but I won't give it away. But I will say that when you look at the bio-info at the front of the book you'll see he has a novel forthcoming in English, and I'm pretty sure this piece is an excerpt - you'll know what I mean when you finish. In some previous posts I have slammed New Yorker editors for relying too heavily on excerpts from forthcoming fiction, which seems to me often just flag waving and promotion; that said, this excerpt, if that's what it is, breaks the rules because of the stand-alone quality of the piece and because it introduces most if not all readers to a new voice. South Korean films are among the most interested made today, and this is a good step toward our seeing more of contemporary South Korean fiction.

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