Saturday, October 29, 2011

Part XI: Bird and Fish, comprehensive criticism

One of the saddest things in life of someone who loves reading is a book that has the right markings for enjoyment, yet when it comes to reading it, falls flat on its face and doesn't get up. Let's say it this way; imagine coming across a turtle that is lying on its back, its feet waving helplessly in the air. Being a good citizen, you help the turtle, only to watch it return on its back, giving you an evil eye and continuing to wave the legs helplessly in the air. Several times you do this, and several times the turtle defies you. Eventually you grow incredibly frustrated, throw your hands up in the air and walk away, somehow hoping that the next poor soul will not fall into its trap. That was my experience with the book, yet instead of saying 'forget it' I stupidly thought 'oh it will get better...I mean everyone else was giving it high marks.' Sadly enough, it never got better, at least for me. There are many things I didn't like about it, and there will be a lot to cover. But before doing that, I will mention positive things about the book: one thing is that its an Asian male/white female story, or Korean male/ white female story, another is that it does seem as if the author has some sort of talent for writing. The last thing is that it really got me questioning on how to create the chemistry between the leads and why this book didn't work. With that out of the way, let's begin with negative things.

In some cases I will be willing to overlook technical mistakes such as a misspelled word or an instance of forgetting the quotation marks. But this is one case where I can't overlook technical things. I will type some paragraphs up to show how the book was written, which is its greatest weakness:

(From pages 49-50)

"The enchanted children hadn't guessed this was a classic pre-reading activity. Find out what they know then learn what they need to know. In this case, they needed to know how Marullus and Flavius learned that the two commoners were a carpenter and cobbler. Scene i would take the whole period. The language was new to them and none of them knew what a cobbler was.

A Chopin Mazurka began. The children left the room reasonably clean for the next class. 6A2 would have to be appeased with the last of the Midgees, since the kitchen crew was now busily  preparing for the lunch crowd. The jokes were the same as was the laughter. Julius Caesar conquered yet another world. This class boasted a round-faced comedian named Kenny Han who called out "Hambok" when asked what Romans wore. Wendy Dale laughed with the class. Her Jane would have done something like that. The class ended with only Ms. Dale knowing that Marullus and Flavius were doomed. "

The author also forgets about something called transition words which help with smoothing over any bumps, helping the reader to be interested in the story. You have to look for transition within the paragraphs and even then you might miss them. Here's example of transition from my own story, Silent Love Part I

He watches her from afar, the umbrella in his hand as it rained. The raindrops ran down her unprotected face, creating streak of tears. Late afternoon sun peeked out, almost shy and hesitant in breaking the reverie between the two. The clouds were of white hue, the unexpected summer rain. The smell of earth invaded his nostrils, reinvigorating him in body and soul.
Don’t be sad, he thinks to himself as he looks towards her. He just wants to make sure that she will be all right, his final goodbye. Silently he tries to send messages towards her, hoping against hope that she’ll receive them and will understand what he cannot express in words. Don’t be sad, he repeats the message inside, please remember the happy times you and I have had; the time I told you rabbit living on the moon stories, the time I taught you to use chopsticks and how to eat bimbibap.
All this time had passed, countless years, yet I cannot say these words in my heart. I know that you might think I have no feelings for you, but it’s not true. I wish you could understand more of my culture, but you cannot, and there are things that I cannot find words for in your tongue to express.
The present image faded, no longer there in front of him, but instead the history unfolded, how he first came over to a public school, and silent with humiliation of not knowing English. He remembered the strange tongue washing over him, drowning him. Students were all over, talking incessantly, even when the teacher arrived to teach. His culture had not prepared him for American life. Back in his homeland, the students would show more respect towards teacher, more value, but here the teachers were treated like trash."  
As if transition words aren't bad enough. there is no warning when point of view switches from Wendy to Hyun Jae Won. I also don't buy the "true love" between them. For me there's no rumbling of the storm, no crackling of thunder, and a long jagged bolt hitting the ground, blinding everyone around it. For me, there's NOTHING like that! Basically, he likes her because he's told to like her. Also, I didn't appreciate being reminded of the book being like a Korean drama. Yes, I get it already. I also couldn't stand Miss Mary Sue a.k.a Wendy Dale being perfect in everything. Reading this book was like watching a Korean drama I couldn't stand such as Winter Sonata or Boys Before Flowers. (I would have liked Winter Sonata if it had a few more conflicts besides the obvious ones.) Also I never liked or appreciated the constant clothing labels as well as pointless drama references in there. I wanted more story rather than what Miss Mary Sue wore everyday. (No kidding either.) It would help as well if Ms. Leslie could make a glossary of Korean words she uses in the book, because I didn't know a lot of them. 

This book is written for a very very selective group of people; who? New Yorkers who love watching Korean dramas such as Pure 19, Winter Sonata, Goong, etc. In other words, dramas that I cannot stand. (Korean dramas that I enjoyed are The Devil, Resurrection, Eyes of Dawn, Sandglass, Bad Family,) I also have never been to New York so of course that alienates me even more. That normally wouldn't be a problem because I don't care about setting and often ignore it, but when she talks of specific places in the book, it creates a wall between someone who lives in Texas and someone who is from New York. (What's wrong with simply saying she's going to a hospital where they take care of breast cancer or something like that? There are plenty of people that never been to New York!) 

Also, many Korean men do not watch Korean dramas. I used to date a Korean guy, yet he doesn't watch Korean dramas. He, instead, introduced me to some Korean movies that he enjoyed such as The Classic, Art Museum by the Zoo, and loved a Korean variety TV show called Chattering of Beauties. 

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