stop and stare (xo, rager)

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i stopped and stared the first time i saw this cover at the bookstore.

what’s inside is even more awesome and hilarious, if that is possible.

[A] culturally specific, ultradistilled form of rage, which Koreans call han … By definition, only Koreans have han, which arises from the fact that the universe can never pay off this debt to them, not ever. (Koreans are not known for being forgiving) … One enduring example of the persistence of han is Korea’s emblematic song – not the national anthem, but the song that represents Korea more than any other: a folk song called “Arirang” … What is this song about? In one verse, a spurned lover says, “Ye who has tossed me aside and left me, I hope you get a foot disease before you have traveled ten li.” … And it speaks volumes that Koreans have used “Arirang” as their international ambassadorial song, without any discussion about changing the lyrics. They don’t question whether it’s okay to air this kind of hostility in public.

i’m usually not one for non-fiction, but i couldn’t resist. and this one hasn’t disappointed (though i’ve just started devouring its chapters). much of it is quote-worthy. even more of it is just downright hilarious. and it’s startlingly accurate. almost like someone described your family (including yourself) to you and made you think, “how did they get it so right?” recommend.

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itsy mitsy

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i love children’s books. i always have. the illustrations, especially. i drift over to the children’s books section at bookstores the way i stop in front of windows with puppies in them. [well, that’s a whole other blog post since i think pet shops should be done away with entirely for the sake of puppies]. so maybe that’s not the best analogy.

in any case, the stars of children’s books have spunk and gusto. they leap from the page, full of whimsy, dreams, and fantastical ideas. and for that, i love them. the above is from itsy mitsy runs away. and she’s quite a character. this other one is all about a wave and a girl. and this one, you probably remember from your own childhood – a whole world scribbled in purple crayon.

mundane participation as the true meaning of friendship

One of my best friends was about to become a mother, and I wouldn’t be there. Oh, we still had e-mails, phone calls, visits, but I would miss the small events—like visiting her in the hospital or leaving a tray of lasagna in her fridge—the mundane participation that is the true meaning of friendship. She was over there and I was here, and the circles of our daily lives overlapped less and less, until they barely touched at all.

I knew it wasn’t her fault, or mine, just the natural consequence of distance. And yet recently the distance had started to loom unforgiving and unmanageable, shadowing almost all my relationships. I felt it when I saw photos of friends’ new boyfriends-turned-husbands, with my baby nieces who were suddenly young girls weaving me pot holders, with my parents who grew a little grayer every time I visited. The people I loved most in the world were living the most important moments of their lives without me, and I was living mine without them. It took me a while to recognize the emotion, unfamiliar as it was, but when I did, it scratched at me with thorny immediacy: I was homesick.

– Ann Mah, Mastering the Art of French Eating

i recently read this bit and several of my friends immediately came to mind. and of course family. i didn’t even have to think. they were this passage. it makes me sad to think that some of my closest friends inhabit or will inhabit certain places and times in my past and are absent from my now.

bd and i won’t be able to just stroll across campus and knock on each other’s studios, i won’t get to see theresa’s ellie and olivia or sarah’s elliot grow up. and most sadly, i can’t (at least for now), hop on a train or in a car to see my mom or dad. the beauty of these friendships and of family though, is that when the circles do overlap, however rarely or briefly, it’s the most effortless feeling. you feel like you’re home, wherever that is.

college course booklets

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“but i will resist except to say that the poem stays with me, in the way that songs we fall in love to stay with us, as a figure for that time and those people, and their different lives will always feel to me as if they are playing out in time the way the adjectives of experience play over the adamant nouns in Stevens’s poem …”

i’m a few essays into robert hass’s “what light can do.” his essays provide something my life has been lacking lately. it has been awhile since i’ve gotten to grab a crisp but chubby stanford college course booklet and open a quarter’s (we had quarters, not semesters) worth of possibilities. i remember flipping automatically to the humanities courses – just reading the choices, the possibilities … it gave the feeling of limitless possibilities. my friend maya remembers this with equal fondness and just as vividly. smiling in agreement, she added, “yeah, everyone would run to grab the course booklets as soon as they came off the press and would run to different corners of campus with it!” and what was more, we got a week or so to “shop” the courses freely before committing for the quarter. i remember circling my picks with a colored highlighter and reading the descriptions just for fun. it wasn’t really the same in law school. law school, despite also being at stanford, didn’t quite have the same sort of infinite choices and possibilities. the path was already narrowed by then, and there was no crip yet chubby course booklet for law school. as a 1L, your classes were chosen for you. and everyone took the same five or so courses.

i remember thinking in college – i’ve made it. i can’t believe i get to do what i love – read novels and poems, write about and discuss them, and then get a grade for doing what i’d do anyways! it was a brief four years, and i miss those four years.

reading hass’s essays brings me back to that (well, as close enough as i can get at this point). and for that reason alone, i’d recommend it.

the lines above are from the first essay in his collection. his essays have a poetic cadence to them. i find myself re-reading his sentences in the way i’d re-read poetry. and what’s more, each essay also has the feeling of being an individual college course of sorts (a humanities one, of course).