Wednesday, February 06, 2008


It takes a little more than a half-hour to get from Itaewon to Gangnam on the subway, then it's about a 7-minute walk to our meeting spot. I had just emerged from Gangnam Station when a 50-something Korean man latched onto my elbow with a surprisingly firm grip. Startled the hell out of me; I'd been lollygagging, thinking about Me Talk Pretty One Day. He was carrying a bible. I noticed this right about the time he told me (not asked) to go to his bible study group with him.

I said, "I can't. I'm going somewhere else."

He said, "Kyobo building?"

I said, "Yes, near there." (The two buildings are hooked together somehow.)

He said, "Then you can go to my bible study."

I said, "No, I'm going to my book group."

He said, "What?"

I said, "My book group. With my friends. I'm meeting my friends."

He said, "Kyobo building?"

"Yes, near there."

"Your friends, you -- bible study."

"No, I'm sorry. Impossible."

"How do you think of Hillary?"

"She's OK. I like Obama."

"You're American?"

"내, 미 궄 사 람 ㅣㅁ 니 다."

"Oh, your Korean is very well!"

"Thanks. Not really. It's terrible."

"America is racist country. Why you like Obama?"

"I don't know. I just do."

Luckily, by this time we were at Dos Tacos. I said, "I turn here," but he wouldn't let go of my elbow and walk on until he saw exactly where I was going. As I entered Dos Tacos, he said: "Okay. Have a nice day." I felt a little bug-eyed for a few minutes after I sat down and ordered a Coke. Swap time with Aaron calmed my nerves. This time, he loaned me season 1 of Dexter and I loaned him the first 2 Dexter novels, Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dear Devoted Dexter and season 2 of Carnivale. Reluctantly, I returned Pyongyang to him.

Shortly after I arrived, a text message came in from CanadaBoy. His New Year's resolution is to read 50 books this year. He sailed happily through the seventh Harry Potter book, but hit a snag with the next one, The Interpreter by Suki Kim. He complained bitterly for 10 days that the writing style was boring. I told him to give it up. He said, "No, I'm gonna read it." This was said in the same tone as "No, I'm gonna wrestle it to the ground and kick the crap out of it."

Here's his TM:

That bitch of a book is done. Wasn't too bad in the end. Not a classic for sure.

Way to go, CanadaBoy! Would you like to be a guest reviewer for Naked Without Books! ?

Ten people showed up for BOOKLEAVES this time. Wonderful attendance, but a little overwhelming for Dos Tacos. It's a tiny restaurant, and the Sedaris book provoked a lot of loud and raucous discussion and laughter. Everyone seemed to be entertained by it, and we took turns reading aloud our favorite parts. Liz wondered if anyone had noticed that all the teachers in the book seem to have unattractive personalities or are incompetent, including Sedaris himself, when he got a gig as a writing teacher. Mitzi said that the book wasn't as funny as the hype had led her to expect, but she was still amused. Bernadette said that the gross-out humor didn't appeal so much to her anymore, and she felt like she'd "been there, read that." Most people's favorite chapters seemed to be "You Can't Kill The Rooster" and the last one, in which David hilariously explores his father's food hoarding habits.

We're going to try a new venue for the February 17 meeting. The place is called TOZ, or something like that, and they're set up more for groups. Each person has to kick in about 3-5 bucks, your group has its own private meeting room, they bring you snacks and drinks and you can stay for a maximum of three hours. I really miss book groups in the US, where we took turns having the meeting at members' homes. It's not practical here because we're coming from all over the metro area and we all have tiny little boxes, I mean apartments. But yeah, meeting at people's houses...that was cool. It forced me to clean at least twice a year.

As promised, here are a few pictures. I think I forgot to use the flash on one of them. [Must. Buy. Digital. Camera.] Unlike David Sedaris, I'm not adverse to technology; I'm just well, a little on the tentative side.

Happy Seol-Nal! We're going into The Year Of The Rat. [Rat. Shudder.]

What is wrong with Blogger? I'm having spellcheck withdrawal symptoms; old-style editing really frosts me!


jenclair said...

I'm still cracking up over your dialog with the Bible Study Man! And I'm envious of your great book group!

Sam said...

Interesting experience, Bybee. That's the last thing I would have expected to have happen to an American in Korea...great looking book group, BTW. Happy reading.

Bybee said...

Yeah, when he made the racist comment, I thought to myself, "You should talk, buddy."

Re Cormac McCarthy: Which one? I battled one a few years ago. Finished it, but I was all bumps and bruises!

I'd be so happy if my book group and my book blog world could all come together somehow!

Christianity is the number 2 religion here, and really devout Koreans embrace it with the same ferocious zeal they apply to other things in their lives. I was an easy mark because I'm a female caucasian of a certain age. Because of that, Koreans often presume I'm a missionary.

Kathy said...

I just love the totally lack of actual transition from Bible study group to Hillary!

Bybee said...

Exactly! During this kind of encounter in the US, we would have dialogued about Jesus for while before leapfrogging over to Hillary.

Bybee said...

All The Pretty Horses is the one that nearly KOed me.