Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bandi & Luni's -- The Mother Lode

Thanks completely to Manfred, Jr., I've got another Korean bookstore in my arsenal.

The bookstore is Bandi & Luni's Bookstore at the COEX Mall in Seoul. B&L is a huge bookstore with a huge English-language section. Several rows of fiction books. Nice nonfiction section, well-organized. There were also audiobooks, which I haven't seen since I've been in Korea. Can I ever be happy at Kyobo Bookstore in Daegu again, now that I've been to Bandi & Luni's?

Browsing was a little difficult at B&L. Expats and high-English-level Koreans were crowding the aisles. One expat was trying to make time with a young Korean woman in the M-Z fiction aisle. His patter was meant to be suave, but he was a little irritating because he was blocking my view of the fiction shelves. He didn't even read fiction, he explained to the young woman. But he was trying to "branch out" because he "knew everything about history and politics" and needed to "expand his horizons."

The young Korean woman was keeping pace admirably. She didn't read modern English or American fiction. She preferred French authors like Voltaire. As it turned out, they both just loved Camus and Sartre, although he trumped her by asking her if she knew that the 2 Frenchmen had been friends, and no, she'd had no idea!

Then it turned out that the expat had read some fiction after all: Everybody within earshot got a neat synopsis of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Native Son by Richard Wright. (I did appreciate those last 2 mini-reviews, but still wished mightily that he'd continue his seduction over by the bargain books. And where the hell was Manfred, Jr.? We could have some fun mocking this guy later.)

Finally, he wound down, and she gave him her business card. Her name must have been written in Korean, because when he sounded out the characters, she announced, "You're ruining my name!" Not in the least flustered, the expat said, "Well, I'll give you my name card [Konglish for "business card"] and see if you can pronounce my name." So off they went, the expat and the young Korean woman, presumably to mangle each other's names happily ever after. Shuddering at the aftermath of this pseduo-meet-cute, I went back to scanning titles.

What did I buy?

Not a lot, because I want an excuse to go back soon! (maybe 2 weeks?)

I left behind:
a novel by Dawn Powell
a copy of Hunger, by Knut Hamsun
a biography of H.H. Holmes called Depraved
a humor book by Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho
a Sigrid Undset novel called Jenny
a nonfiction book titled Library: An Unquiet History
well, this list (and I) could go on much longer, so here's what I bought:

The Road To Perdition -Max Allen Collins & Richard Piers Rayner.
This graphic novel has eluded me since I stupidly didn't purchase it back in 2002, when the movie came out. I've been punished for this oversight several times by constantly seeing the novelization that was published. I'll never understand why there had to be a novelization. Anyway, I've got it now!

The Good Earth -Pearl S. Buck
I had a literary flashback at Bandi & Luni's: I read this book in 1984, when I was pregnant with Manfred, Jr! I wanted to be brave and stalwart like O-Lan was when she had her first baby. She delivered her son alone, then cleaned up the room, then got a meal for her husband and father-in-law, and a day or so later, she was back in the fields, helping her husband. I was so impressed, that although I went to the hospital for a couple of days like a big modern-day sissy, I did opt for natural childbirth! (That was a very intense experience, but it's not the reason Manfred, Jr. is an only child.)

I didn't remember anything else about the novel, so I decided to buy it and read it again. 23 years is a lifetime. On the train home, I got started. I'm on Chapter 4, reading it at the same time I'm reading Vanity Fair (Chapter 30). Becky Sharp and O-Lan are 2 very different types!

A book of 50 New York Times crossword puzzles.
A birthday gift for my co-worker, Newfie. When he's not drinking or chasing women, he enjoys working crossword puzzles (in pen!). And he's turning 50, so one puzzle for every year!

Although it was good of Manfred, Jr. to show me what I've been missing ere these 2 years, I think he enjoyed taunting me a little. Well, that's what I get for being a chicken about the Seoul subway system.

A few hours before Bandi & Luni's Bookstore, Manfred, Jr. and I had taken a little subway ride to a suburb of Seoul called Yongsan. There at the train station was another nice bookstore. It's not as big as B&L, but it has a great selection. We lingered there briefly because Manfred, Jr. was tantalizing me with the riches that awaited me at Bandi & Luni's. Not knowing that the mother lode was just a medium-sized subway ride away, I didn't trust to let the following books out of my sight:

Veronica -Mary Gaitskill
This novel was a National Book Award finalist, but no one besides critics seemed to have a copy. When I looked for it last summer at home, I couldn't find it at Barnes & Noble. Shocked and happy to finally see it, I grabbed a copy, which was of course at Bandi & Luni's as well.

A Pound Of Paper: Confessions Of A Book Addict -John Baxter
Baxter is more of a reader-collector than I am, but since I live in a town without a bookstore with an English-language section or a library with no English-language books AND work at a university whose libary's card catalog stops at 799, I understand that feverish thrill of the hunt, the need to endlessly pursue books.


slslaven said...

The joy of finding a new bookstore...proof that life is grand. Should bookstores post rules about book-shopping/browsing etiquette? On the one hand, you overhead this fascinating conversation...on the other, the experience of frustration that I have had on several occassions. Only I find people planting themselves on the floor directly in front of the bookshelves I wish to peruse...and they will not move unless you ask them to no matter how much leaning, sighing or standing too close for comfort you do.

I read Pound of Paper while staying in Holland with my grandparents and loved it). They had an absolutely fantastic bookstore downtown with a large english-language section where I found POP as well as paperback books by American authors available only in hardcover back in the states. Too much happiness...especially when I found Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy and came across an essay on his trip to Amsterdam and visiting the Anne Frank house.

I recently found a book called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee, a memoir about a man who loves bookstores. You may enjoy it!

lazy cow said...

Liked your description of the couple, they sound hideous!
I enjoyed a Pound of Paper too, it's fascinating.

Bybee said...

slslaven...I can't seem to access your blog. Do you write about books? Thanks for confirming for me that POP was a good purchase.

lazy cow...I feel like I'm insulting you when I call you that! Couldn't I call you something else? Ditto about POP.

slslaven said...

I began a blog but deleted it because I was not maintaining it. Thanks to your blog I am finding other fellow bibliophiles and am considering creating a new one.

nessie said...

I read Library the Unquiet history and LOVED it! It is well worth the buy. It is amazing the PROGRESSION that has undergone the physical 'layout' of the written word.

MissMiller said...

I've also read Pound of Paper and it was an exhilirating read. Baxter had a lifelong obsession with Graham Greene collecting. It's the kind of book that gets the bibliphile's heart all aquiver. And yes, I would love some Korean lit recommendations!

lazy cow said...

Honestly, you are *not* insulting me by calling me Lazy Cow (but my name is Loretta if it really offends your sensibilities!) It's what my husband affectionately calls me, and though I'm the laziest person in the world, I'm not even remotely cow-like, so I don't mind at all :-)