Review: Human Acts by Han Kang

34964181Haunting.

This book is a haunting.

It challenges in the most demanding way possible, that the reader consider humanity. Not just philosophies or theories about humanity, but also the little moments that define who we are to ourselves and each other.

It forces the reader to acknowledge the violence so often enacted on people’s humanity.

It requires a response. As the New York Times review so aptly put it:

“What is humanity?” the book asks. “What do we have to do to keep humanity as one thing and not another?” This question made me rethink — and retranslate — the Korean greeting, and realize how hasehyo could be taken as a more forceful verb, insinuating a command. Instead of “Are you at peace?”, it could also be, “Are you doing peace?” Or “Are you practicing peace?” As in, peace comes not with passivity but with participation. As in, peace requires action, just like violence. And only now do I see yet another aspect of the novel’s English title: “Human Acts,” the tacit verb suggesting that, in the end, perhaps our actions are what matter.

Am I practicing peace?

That question reverberated in my mind every time I put this book down. It is a question that lingers now that I have finished. I believe it is a question that will continue to pester me until I find some kind of answer.

While the book gave no clear answers to this question – only offered a rich, kaleidoscopic view of human life. It gave tears – both mine and the writer’s – and it gave glimpses of joy; but mostly it expanded slim definitions of who a person is and asked the reader to contemplate the secret lives of those around us.

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Having Fun with the ABC Book Tag

I had planned to write the second installment for my writing tips series….however, after a work party yesterday I’m hungover and miserable today.

Also…just in general my brain is a bit fried this week. I am emotionally, mentally, and physically worn out. So instead of wracking my mind to come up with some clever or insightful post, I thought I would do a book tag. It’s light-hearted, fun, minimal effort….everything I need to get myself through the week.

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This book tag — well more of a book survey — originated at The Perpetual Page-Turner. This was the perfect tag for my worn out brain, practically created for just this situation. As she even writes, ” Feel free to join me. . . if you are feeling like you want to let down your metaphorical blogging hair and do something silly to relieve some pressure off your blogging shoulder. . . .”

So, here goes. . . (more…)

The Writer’s Dilemma: 3 Tips to Avoid Redundancy in Writing

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During my high school and college years I was the person to go to for editing papers. No matter the topic I had a knack for tightening prose (unfortunately, this generally applied best to other people’s work and not my own). It was a win-win situation too. I loved digging my teeth into a paper and making it pop, and my friends and family got free editorial advice.

A lot of my natural talent came from my love of reading. I gobbled up books and developed a taste for which ones were good, which ones were candy, and which ones ought to be spit back out. However, my natural talent and refined taste could only take me so far in helping my peers with their papers. It would take a lot of practice and learning on my part to be able to spot and edit beyond style, grammar, and punctuation.

Fortunately, early on in my college years I encountered several brilliant professors who taught me tips and tricks for developing quality content. During my freshman year I consistently received papers back with comments praising my style but disappointed in the substance.

The three substance based dilemmas I struggled with the most were:

  1. Redundancy
  2. Logic Leaps
  3. Unspecific

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few of the most helpful strategies I learned to resolve these writer’s dilemmas. These methods transformed my writing and have allowed me to play fairy godmother when I edit other people’s writing.

So without further ado . . .

Tiny Little Syrup Bottles – Or Three Ways to Eliminate Redundancy

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Pier Walks

Silence was a prison no more
Noise no longer chaos
Conversation held no power
When a gentle effervescent space blossomed

Around Hobbesian anarchy reigned
Horns honked, demanding the right to occupy space not their own
Trash piled on corners and in crevices
Reminders that decay would approach

But within. . . within
A simple kiss was all – forming a new contract
Releasing from the heavy dictates of mortal codes
As silence swarmed around, resisting

Aimless wandering in the quiet
But, the quiet is better with you

Book Playlist: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

 

 

 

 

~Playlist~

Alice’s Theme – Danny Elfman

  • “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. . . . Everyone else in our family is dead.”

The Wolf — Phildel

  • “I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had.”

The Moss — Cosmo Sheldrake

  • “On the moon we wore feathers in our hair, and rubies on our hands. On the moon we had gold spoons.”

Adages of Cleansing — Clogs

  • “There had not been this many words sounded in our house for a long time, and it was going to take a while to clean them out.”

Dry and Dusty — Fever Ray 

  • “Oh Constance, we are so happy.”

Sqworm — Ramona Falls

  • “All our land was enriched with my treasures buried in it, thickly inhabited just below the surface with my marbles and my teeth and my colored stones, all perhaps turned to jewels by now, held together under the ground in a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us.”

Fire — Second Person

  • “I would have to find something else to bury here and I wished it could be Charles.”

The End? — Hans Zimmer

  • “We moved together very slowly toward the house, trying to understand its ugliness and ruin and shame.”

Fragment: Scarlet

Eyeballs with lids peeled back

Thoughtfully wander across the room.

Blue, Brown, Grey, Green, every-

One rests staring at me.

 

I’ve been caught!

Red handed — literally!

A saw covered in sticky platelets,

My soul laid out like that guilty Plantagenet for all to see and condemn.

 

My own eyes turned downward at the ragged stumps–

Where my legs once were–

Now just sharp bone, tangled

Veins and crimson.

 

Questions begin to erupt like magma.

Coming to the surface, turning into destruction and lava,

Lascivious commentary.

Crude descriptions of this madness.

 

But I merely sat,

The pain numbing into complacency

Because —  just for a moment —

I was freed from the tyranny of thought.

Guilty Confessions: 17 Books I Should Have Read

Image result for the name of the rose by umberto ecoI always have a long list of books to read, whether they are books on my bookshelf already or one of the dozens of books recommended by friends, family, professors, random people on the street… the list seems to go on and on.

And choosing which books to read and when is not always an easy decision. Do I want to read something short or long? Fiction or non-fiction? Old or new? There are so many options it can be a task in itself to choose just one.

This act of choosing which books to read also means that there have been many books that have been left unread. Books that as a self-professed reader and lover of books and especially as an English major pursuing a Masters in publishing, I’m embarrassed to admit I have not read.

Now, this year I have made some headway towards correcting these oversights. I finally read Lolita and Rebecca; Atlas Shrugged and Outliers: The Story of Success; The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Americana by Don DeLillo.

However, for every book that I check off my list, I’m left with dozens more still to go. So, now that we are over halfway through the year and as I am assessing my reading goal and beginning to plan out books for the remainder of the year, here is a list of 17 books (in honor of today’s date) that I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t yet read!

17 Books I’m Embarrassed I Haven’t Read

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