from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #14: Alcoholic Daydreams, the Penguin, and the Sea

with 2 comments

I’m sitting on a patio just outside of campus where they serve cool, watered-down beer in frosty glasses, beer watered-down with something that isn’t water, something that makes the beer more watery yet stronger and makes the beer make me drunk faster than mixing it with soju. It isn’t soju. Soju makes beer taste awful (another reason why I could never live the corporate life in Korea). Soju is one of those things that doesn’t really mix with anything, especially me.

The beer is what makes the summers here a bit more bearable if that is at all possible. The summers here are thick and sticky like maple syrup when it’s not on your hotcakes but on your fingers, and the bugs—God, I hate the bugs. I’m not the most cleanly person but I hate bugs. Bugs love me because I’m not the cleanliest person. I’m guessing bugs like maple syrup, too, which is maybe why they come out in the summer.

I’m re-reading A Farewell to Arms at the moment. It was a farewell gift from a co-worker when I worked in a hakwon in Bundang, months before I was sent to the Army. At work, I talked about escaping to Japan on a boat and the book was to be “instructions or inspiration” in the event that I did have to go to the Korean Army. That escape plan didn’t happen, and I talk about it extensively in my second chapter.

In my very first entry where I was drunk-writing an afterword, I mentioned that I often daydreamed about making it onto Oprah’s book club list and being interviewed on her show. It’s one of my more practical daydreams related to making it as a writer and I guess I get more practical when I’m drunk on a combination of beer and wine.

Looking at the book on the table beside my computer, I am reminded of some of those other daydreams. Another is to have a Penguin classic. When I was in the Army, I spent a good portion of my leaves and weekend passes at the bookstore. Once you get on in rank, life turns from supreme frustration and an inability to entertain your own thoughts out of busy-ness to a lesser but still extreme frustration and an insatiable boredom. Most do the devil’s handiwork, pestering everyone in the general vicinity, but I sacrificed to this unappeasable god by writing in my journals and reading. I mostly read Penguin classics because they are the only reasonably priced English-language books in Korean bookstores.

To join the ranks of the literary giants is a dream for a guy like me, a guy of slightly below average height (depending on my company) and who has yet to have anything of worth published. Of course, this would be a dream I would never live to see even if it ever did happen, but I can imagine myself on my deathbed (four years from now) imagining that people will recognize my worth after I’m dead and my ashes are scattered in the winds. Actually, I imagine my death to be much less tame; I can imagine myself imagining that people recognize my worth while I’m flying through the air at breakneck speeds just before the asphalt strips the flesh from my bones.

Another dream is to have my name like Hemingway’s. His name on my copy of this book is larger than the title and located at the space at the top of the book normally reserved for titles. The title occupies a thin line at the very bottom of the book, 90 percent down the cover, almost like an aside, as if the printers nearly forgot to include the title, so commanding is the name Hemingway.

Unfortunately, this book I am working on will never live up to those dreams. It’s not complete shit—I would like to believe that these past five years haven’t been in vain—but I doubt it has much literary value. It’s just a story, a story I couldn’t tell with literary value without starting over again. But it’s fine. It’s fine because I don’t want to write memoirs. I’m selling my soul to hopefully make money so that one day I can have the freedom to write the things I want to write. I think I’m drunk. Damn this watered-down beer.

Even if these past five years have been in vain, I only say five years because five years ago is when I started my very first draft, which was complete shit and long since condemned to the Recycle Bin. There have been too many long periods of nothingness, of no writing and only dreaming. It used to be enough to live in my delusions of grandeur but even delusions only last for so long before they need to be renewed.

[edit 6.23] A record streak on the New York Times bestseller list and a Pulitzer would also be nice.


2 Responses

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  1. This posting made me laugh and cringe. Don’t we all struggle with the words we put to paper or the computer screen. We want to write the things we want to write, but it’s so hard. We want to publish something of worth, but it’s rare when it happens. We read someone else’s novel that’s being made into a movie and we can’t believe it was even considered. It’s why you drink watered down beer and hope something, anything of consequence touches someone. This got to me…thanks for writing it.

    Cold Dead Heart

    June 19, 2010 at 5:18 am

    • Cold Dead Heart,

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m not getting any kind of monetary compensation for blogging, but if my writing can get to someone, I guess it’s good enough. If only it would fill my stomach with food and beer.

      Jokes aside, I appreciate the comment. Thank you.



      June 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm

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