On Writing This Blog As An Unfinished Book

When Kyle Minor at HTMLGiant wrote about reading this blog as a book two weeks ago, I decided to do a little of it myself to see what I could see. What I saw, interestingly, was not what I thought I’d see.

In 2007, when I began this blog, I had the idea that I would eventually publish a book of mixed autobiography and biography, which I would also call Koreanish, and that the blog would be a place that I could sketch out some of the book. That book is about me and my relationship to my Korean family, who once sued my mother for custody of my siblings and I in an attempt to be sure we were raised “Korean enough”. I noticed some of the posts became very long, and when that happened, pulled them off the blog and put them into the manuscript—and did not publish them on the blog.

Gradually, as a result, I have kept writing that book apart from this blog, and this blog in the meantime became something else, something that looks like the shadow of that book.

In writing a book, you can gather yourself in secret from the public. Not so in a blog. There’s an arc to it all, though, and for not being aware of itself, it is somehow, well, differently honest than the sort of creature you’d make if you were trying to write autobiography. It is more cagey, here, yes, for example, less open, but only regarding the obvious: work complaints, complaints about the intimate circle, complaints of the kind that, well, will create instant conflict. And so while I’m not disclosing intimate secrets here, I’m also not guarding against the moods outside of those realms, more subtle ones, and the observations that go with them. I can’t, for example, lie to myself about how bad things are in the world.

What struck me, in other words, is that Koreanish the blog, is, if read narratively, something of a dystopic novel, in which a writer is living inside a country that is blind to its own destruction, a destruction it pursues relentlessly, to his increasing dismay.

The book is not about that so much. Or, it hasn’t been.

It was interesting, to read, say, about life moments before the Kindle appeared and changed publishing forever. But it was also depressing —and I actually found it too depressing, even frightening—to re-read my own blog this way, especially during the lead-up to the election of 2008. Mostly because I could see myself now sounding many of the same themes I was during the Bush administration, (though now I put my political links up on twitter, in case, you know, CNN will read them aloud…sort of kidding there). Back then I was worried about lies in the media being used to political ends, endless war, the destruction of the middle class, the creation of a permanent underclass, health insurance crises and the destruction of the environment. Still on those topics, much further in.

It was especially sad to read a post about the parties in the streets of Paris on the night of Obama’s election, and then to track how Obama’s presidency triggered an unprecedented attack on civil rights and the middle class, fueled by money from the country’s richest conservatives. Not at all what we thought we’d get from a president and congress that could deliver universal health care, green energy initiatives and an end to the wars. Worse still is this president’s habit of surrendering regularly to the GOP, first when he didn’t have to and now increasingly because he does.

What I see in the posts from 2007-2008 how I became really convinced that the problem was about the presidency, and could be solved by a new president. What I see now is that we could change presidents all day and the problems this country faces would remain, for how they emerge from a political process that is too easily subverted by money and lies in the media.

If anything gives me hope now, it is the honest spirit of political protest happening around the globe, from the Arab nations to London to the state legislature in Wisconsin. And that really is the other point to make—the problems in the US are the problems in the world, really—few countries if any are inoculated from being subjects to a global financial elite that has figured out how to make money from firings and layoffs, foreclosures, highspeed computerized stock trades and stockpiled cash. Yes, I could move to about 60 other nations and receive socialized medicine, for example (one bright spot—soon may be able to add “Vermont” to that list of places), but wherever I go, this elite is indifferent to these crises, and no longer needs the good will or even the general population in order to be rich. They make money off each other, in brutal raids and corporate takedowns. They’ve manipulated the markets to the extent that we need their good will in order to survive them. It’s as if they decided 30 years ago that the creation of a middle class was a mistake, and they’re pulling up the gates.

At some point, I’m sure, book and shadow will merge, more than they have. It’ll be interesting, to see how it all works out.


  1. Once you wrote something to the effect of, “Unlike my country, I don’t think people who can’t afford health insurance should die,” and I feel like that sort of sums it up rather perfectly. The entire rest of the Venn diagram could be filled in, in a matter of minutes.

    I wish it could be the last word of the so-called “debate,” and that, like they’d just received cold water (or a slap) to the face, everyone would wake up and endeavor to be reasonable.

    In all of this, is it terribly selfish for me to admit that–what, a year after I read it? Two years?–I keep wanting to ask you how Fee is??

    1. Ha. Thank you and…No! That’s not selfish at all. Or, it’s the best kind of selfishness.

      I’ve also thought of an eventual sequel to Edinburgh, about Warden and Fee ten years, fifteen years down the road from where Edinburgh ended. But we’ll see. Which is to say, I appear to think about it too.

  2. “What struck me, in other words, is that Koreanish the blog, is, if read narratively, something of a dystopic novel, in which a writer is living inside a country that is blind to its own destruction, a destruction it pursues relentlessly, to his increasing dismay.”

    I love this. I would read this book (and in fact, I do).

    Sadly, everything you’ve said here is so true. Switching presidents really solves nothing when our country is filled with ridiculous people who are made more stupid by media run by more ridiculous people.

    Anyway, in the vein of meditating on your blog, I’d like to thank you for this lovely blog. I so enjoy it.

  3. A sequel to Edinburgh? i’m there if you ever decide to take that chance. (you’ve changed two lives already).

    In the meantime, you’ve just proven why i was extolling the virtues of your advice to a new friend in Canada that i just met.

    Keep writing so that the rest of the room has to catch up.

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