Recent Work By Sung J. Woo

For the last two weeks, I had intended to write up a little review of the new Star Trek film, but then I got thinking about what this franchise has meant to me. Don’t worry — I’m not some loon who knows the stardate of when Kirk took his first swig of Romulan Ale, and I certainly can’t translate Shakespeare into Klingon. However, I’m not a casual fan, either. I’ve seen enough Star Trek to know what the prime directive means or that Uhura’s name comes from the Swahili word for freedom.

startrek

You’re twelve years old. A month has passed since your Korean Air flight landed in lovely Newark Airport. Your sixteen-year-old sister is miserable. Your mother isn’t exactly happy, either. You just met your father for the first time, and although he’s nice enough, he might be, well – how can you put this delicately – a loser.

You can’t speak English, but that doesn’t stop you from working at East Meets West, your father’s gift shop in a strip mall, where there are not only customers to wait on but neighboring stores to visit. Everything is new. Nothing is the same.

Welcome to the wonderful world of David Kim.

That’s the premise of my novel, Everything Asian, which is being published today. I’m looking at the folder that contains the first draft of the first chapter (which turned out to be a much later chapter in revisions), and to give you an idea of the age of this thing, the file is in WordPerfect 5.1 format. It is dated 9/14/1997.

And now, here’s a little excerpt. You can read the first chapter in its entirety on my website.

A little while ago, I saw the word “mumblecore” in reference to a film. Finally! I thought. Some smart person has labeled this issue that’s been bothering me for at least a decade now. Unfortunately, when I looked up the term, it wasn’t what I thought at all.

Let me start from the beginning, which was even more than a decade ago, when I visited my then-girlfriend’s (now-wife) house. It was a fine house, a very, very, very fine house, until I turned on the TV.

“You’re not deaf, are you?” I asked.

Believe it or not, the Super Bowl wasn’t the only major sporting event that took place yesterday. Earlier, the men’s final of the Australian Open in tennis was on ESPN2 at the wee hours of the morning. Even though tennis is a game I love, I don’t love it enough to get up at three in the morning to watch it live, so instead, I waited until 9am to see the tape-delayed match on the Tennis Channel. It used to be easier doing this, by the way, watching a sporting event after it has already happened. Before the Internet, it was fairly simple to keep away from knowing the outcome: stay away from the news on TV. But now? With my home page being My Yahoo!, which culls the latest bits from Reuters and the New York Times, there are news landmines everywhere. And it’s just not possible for me to leave the laptop off if I’m going to be watching TV — who doesn’t multitask nowadays?

Whirlwind

By Sung J. Woo

Essay

Fourteen years ago, I started an online magazine. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal now, since anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can create an online presence, but back in March of 1994, it wasn’t so easy. Because Netscape Navigator wasn’t even at 1.0 — it was in beta. And Internet Explorer didn’t exist. Email ran on mainframes and VAX machines, and Gopher was the protocol of choice when it came to delivery of information in a menu-like interface. Anyway, I had to come up with a name for the magazine, and I chose Whirlwind.

My wife Dawn and I took our dog Ginny to classes. We took her to playgroups. We gave her love and affection and discipline and water, plenty of water, because a dog was supposed to have fresh water at all times. And for all our efforts, our German shepherd was behaving worse every day, her latest victim the UPS guy, who now dropped off his packages at the foot of the driveway after the last encounter, which had involved teeth, pants, and unwanted ripping of fabric. Let’s just say it was a good thing he was wearing brown.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before: if it’s on your Facebook profile, it’s official. So let it be known that my religion is Richard Yates.

Richard Yates was a writer who still isn’t as well known as he should be, though I’d think come Christmas this year, that’ll change in a big way. His first novel, Revolutionary Road, was published in 1961 and will be finally seen on the big screen with the starting lineup of Titanic actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Kathy Bates. Throw in Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty, and you just may have a Best Picture Oscar nominee on your hands.

I’ve been obsessed with Yates since 2001, when The New Yorker printed a short story of his, “The Canal,” which concludes with this bit of beautiful ugliness of a couple in trouble: