Archive for October 2011

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself

Monday, October 31, 2011 § 0

I Have The Right To Destroy Myself, by Young-ha Kim

A note: Young-ha Kim has written a whole lot of other things, many of which are nothing like this book, so this review does not generalize to the rest of Kim's works.

I bought this along with The Other Side Of Dark Remembrance.  I didn't like this book nearly as much, although I attribute that to being totally out of the targeted audience, rather than actual lack of merit.  I do recommend this book to people who would enjoy it.  It's seriously stream-of-consciousness, wandering here and there, so be forewarned.  I probably wouldn't have bought the book if I'd actually known what I was in for, so I file this one under Broadening My Reading Horizons.

Also, I'd like to note, that's the catchiest title I've seen in ages.

The premise is revealed very early on so I don't consider this a spoiler.  The arguable protagonist is a nameless man who gets paid to help people commit suicide.  He wines & dines and chats them up and tries to nudge them towards offing themselves and paying him for the consultation.  Kim isn't a psychologist (for all that the characters' motivations are about as opaque as those from a Russian novel, this isn't one), but he's very good at at character, at portraying how a number of different people are all detached from the world, seeking anything that can heighten reality for themselves, and by the way are completely perverse/disturbed/delusional in their own ways.

At one point the narrator tells an outrageous story to a woman and she is implied to believe it.  Then the internal dialogue kicks in:

Sometimes fiction is easier to understand than true events.  Reality is often pathetic.  I learned at a very young age that it was easier to make up stories to make a point.  I enjoy creating stories.  The world is filled with fiction anyway.

Death is the ultimate reality that the narrator's clients find in the book, and the only solid anchor in the entire story.

Robbe-Grillet, two novels

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 § 0

Picked up Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy/In The Labyrinth, I don't know what possessed me to give this a try. Maybe I've been reading too much Eco? But here I am, and sunken cost fallacy be damned I will finish this book. Barthes' intro essay was interesting (and I haven't read Morrissette's or Minor's essays, sorry I went for the name I recognized) although it took 2000 more words than necessary to say that Robbe-Grillet has the amazing skill of writing a novel like one might write problems in a mathematical text, ie, when he describes something you don't really take it in as anything more than factual phenomena. Why is the table 1m wide? It just is and to think otherwise is to miss the point.*

Which is I suppose is legit an achievement, since most writers tune the mood of the world up or down to accompany their story. One might think that at the worst end of the scale sits dystopic fiction writers who make it feel like the universe is out to get you -- but Robbe-Grillet's universe is at the absolute zero: there exists no meaning one way or another, which in a sense is even harsher and colder than the universe's boot in your face.

* for the record: I don't agree with this universe; I agree with William Gibson (and I can't for the life of me remember the interview where he said this) that you can pick up a mass-manufactured disposable hot coffee container and write a whole book on how its materials, dimensions, and other specifications came to be. But that's a ramble for another day.