Koreanish & Some Notes About Reading a Blog As Though It Were A Book Whose Ending Hasn’t Yet Been Written
Koreanish is a blog operated by the novelist Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and the forthcoming The Queen of the Night. Chee recently offered a four-part series titled “100 Things About a Novel.” It begins like this:
1. Sometimes music is needed.
2. Sometimes silence.
3. This is probably because a novel is a piece of music, like all written things, the language demanding you make a sound as you read it.
My favorite of Alexander Chee’s Koreanish posts is from last October, when he talked about teaching the graphic novel. On the subject of his way into the form, he shows this Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Kuniyoshi:
The above, an Ukiyo-e woodblock print by Kuniyoshi, is one of the pieces of art that led me into my interest in the graphic novel. The visual pun at its center emits a narrative force, a dramatic irony—you are drawn into the story about to happen, the idea that the fox has cast this illusion around it and has not yet been caught by anyone except the artist and the reader. Comics and graphic novels at their best play with this and the other forces a visual pun brings to bear. It’s one of the things a comic or graphic novel can do that prose alone has to play catch-up with—creating in the mind of the reader simultaneous contrasts, the fox as woman as fox as illusion.
He also offers a reading list in the graphic novel, and notes for teachers who are afraid of teaching the form (pettiness, politics) but honor it enough to want to teach it anyway.
Since I’m not a regular reader of Koreanish, I didn’t read it in the same way I usually read blogs. Usually I fall into reading blogs and read them every day, and the experience of reading them seems like something of an ongoing conversation in which I am actively participating, at least as a listener. But perhaps because Koreanish is so cleanly designed (Chee uses the same WordPress template I use for my own website), and — more importantly — because he has established a throughline from post to post that is driven forward through time by his own experiences and preoccupations, and because the writing and thinking is interesting enough to make me want to read more, I found that I was reading Koreanish in a manner more resembling the way I read a book than the way I usually read a blog. And because I was reading it backwards through time (this is how blogs post), it was a strange book, in which I always knew the future but was constantly deepening my engagement with the past. I got really interested in things I wouldn’t have thought would interest me, such as Chee’s relationship with his partner Dustin, or his habits while traveling. That’s the kind of thing that sometimes happens when I’m reading a good novel of a certain sort — you fall into it, and it doesn’t matter anymore what the mechanical contrivances are, or why you wanted to read it in the first place. You just surf on it, and hope it won’t end, and you’re sad when it does.
When I reached the end of Koreanish, I realized I’d never get to read it backwards for the first time again, but I also realized I’d get to start reading it forward through time for the first time, and that this is something a blog could be: A book whose ending can be forestalled as long as the author stays alive and in good enough health and with motivation enough to keep writing it. So: Alexander Chee, I selfishly wish you these things: long life, good health, and a will to tell whatever tale you wish to tell, howl or whisper.