I’m just sittin’ here wonderin’…what to work on next. My first novel about Korea is done, and will be published soon, either traditionally via paper or radically via internet or perhaps even both; there will be three novels total, of about a hundred and fifty pages each, and they will all include a photograph for each chapter, with some chapters being a paragraph long and others being dozens of pages, though all have interesting titles (“Opposite World”, “How Grandma Became A Shaman”, “The Hotel Of Insanity”) and the book itself was designed so that if you happened to pick it up (as though you could pick up an ebook!) and turn it to a random page, you would be sucked in at once, unable to put the thing back down again until you finished.
Here is a passage selected at random, I swear, to prove my point:
In a daze she walked the streets of Gyeongju, escorted by one of the dragons, who had transformed himself into King Aejang, though he had the face, tusks, and bristles of a wild boar, striding beside her in clashing jade armor. How would she break the news to her family? she wondered, scarcely noticing him. Where would she go after she abandoned them?
Whoa, what the hell is that! The first book is perhaps the best but also the most boring, and deals with my experiences in Korea—ah, alack!, how many times, O Internet, have I heard the weary expatriate exclaim, while sunken into the bosom of his near-native Korea, of the need to write or to act out his or her experiences there—O, how wearisome! The inside jokes! The common complaints one has both heard and expressed a thousand times!
I wanted to start a contest here, for those who have lived long enough in Korea to actually enjoy it, for writing the most newby-ish first impressions:
I’ve only been in Korea a few hours, and I just wanted to ask everyone—what’s that smell? And what’s up with these women? What are they called again? Ajummas? I just met my students and my co-teacher. The kids were really nice and laughed so hard at everything I said, and although my co-teacher kind of gave me the cold shoulder I’m sure everything will work out okay if I just reach out to her. I’m planning to go to this place called Itaewon where a lot of foreigners hang out. We’re going to eat this thing called samgyupsal or something and drink Korean beer. Should be interesting.
The first book was an attempt to explode such lines. One drifts off to sleep as one hears them in Korea, shouted over the inane music of some trashy bar, murmured while pacing the green-bricked sidewalks, because they are inevitable, and everyone thinks them sooner or later for good reason. I have spoken and written them numerous times.
The second book concerns a few weeks in Indochina, recently parodied in the latest edition of the New Yorker (to my obscene relief: if the New Yorker and I are both putting out the same kind of stuff, I must be doing something right, right? (though naturally her piece is more polished)), as well as sundry interesting stories related to my wife’s family, extending back into the mists of farthest antiquity; while the third book is about our adventurous life together. These two latter books are at least in their second draft form and merely require me to go over each word a few hundred more times, altering, deleting, adding, and beefing up, wherever my eye stops or lags as I peruse.
They are all obviously meant to get your attention and to distract you, to excite your interest, amusement, and discomfortable disgust.
But after I’ve published them on amazon and the iBookstore and after they’ve made, at best, a few hundred dollars, as well as a few vicious one-paragraph reviews (“like The Dog Farm but more annoying and pretentious”)—this I will consider the equivalent of blockbuster success, going to my grave content at having produced both a biological offspring as well as a literary one, passing on my genes (though I am really theirs) in the form of words and cells.
The question then comes: where next shall I turn my pen? I cannot rest on these astounding laurels, not even for one moment! An old friend once told me to have the next project ready before I finish the current one, lest I slip into a depressed state and spend my days creating nothing, as I once did for six miserable months. As I’ve been a writer for a very long time now, with plenty of unfinished projects left in my past; as I just re-picked up the first volume of Gibbon’s Decline And Fall, otherwise known as the best motherfucking book ever (they should put this blurb on the cover of all future editions), and was inspired to try and rewrite the story of the extraordinary Max Thrax, the titanic barbarian who ruled the Roman Empire for a few years; nobody really liked the last version I wrote, and nobody really liked the novel about colonizing another planet that I also wrote (spending a year on each), but I will not cease to annoy so long as I draw breath. It might be better for me if I were simply content to produce finished products for myself alone, and it is true that almost all of the writing I do is done merely because it’s harder not to write than to write (to quote Tolstoy for the thousandth time), but where’s the thrill in that?
What indeed is the point of putting a photo up on facebook if no one is going to give me a red number and “like” it? We are social creatures! Or, as a professorial monk said while I stupidly edited his ridiculous academic paper for free (he ignored all of my non-grammatical concerns with his ideas (“If only everyone could be monks, then everything would be great!”) and his sloppy methodology (“Everyone knows that global warming is happening! Who needs even one source to prove it?”))—We ah leebeng een duh guhlobal beelleejee!