I'd like to say a few more words about my last post before we begin. I declared my intention to eschew any further references to airplanes, booze or literature in my blog and focus solely on travel, but due to popular outcry I am hereby rescinding that declaration. Thanks to you and your wonderful comments, I've decided to keep on writing about the things that interest me (alcohol, flying, good books and travel being the most prominent). If people would like to get more specialized information, they can click on the lower right of this main page, among the swarm of yellow keywords with which I've seeded my posts, and narrow the topics down that way. So there. The Vaunter abides. Thank you for your support, y'all.
Speaking of support, I have only 80 official followers but my page views are skyrocketing. I cracked 100,000 in late 2012 and am already well on my way to 150,000. I've noticed, thanks to the crisp and clear statistical analysis which Blogger provides, that some of my posts appear to have been backlinked. I'm writing like I have a clue what "backlinked" means, but in reality I don't. I think it means that somebody posted links to my blog in high-traffic areas of the web, and they're getting clicked on a lot, thus driving up my page view count. Also, I have taken advantage of the "post-tagging" function that Blogger offers, and have made my posts highly searchable. (I believe the cyber-gods call this SEO, or "search engine optimization.") So there ya go. Hopefully someone in power will notice me and start paying me to write this blithe and mellifluous blog.
Anyway, on to the heart of the matter: Ernest Hemingway.
I don't think I ever truly realized in high school exactly what Hemingway's books were about. The Old Man and the Sea was thankfully self-explanatory, but For Whom the Bell Tolls sounded like it was about somebody's funeral and A Farewell to Arms made me think of a wood-chipper. A Moveable Feast was no different. I thought it was a buffet on wheels.
Then, on a whim, I looked the book up. To my surprise, it was a kind of memoir, posthumously compiled from Hemingway's notes and manuscripts, recording his time as a young writer in Paris in the 1920s, and his encounters with other famous expatriates. The story behind it was quite charming, really: during his time in the French capital (working as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star), and beginning to spread his novelist wings, Hemingway bumped into a lot of luminaries: Aleister Crowley, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, among others. He took copious notes about his time in Paris, the things he saw and did, and the places where he and the other expats habitually hung out: restaurants, bars, seedy cafés and whatnot. In 1928 he stashed these notes in two small trunks in the basement of the Ritz Hotel. He retrieved them again in 1956, had them transcribed and was in the process of collating them into a memoir when, well...
Yeah. You know what happened. The dude offed himself. The editing process was finished by his fourth wife, Mary Hemingway, and published by Scribner's.
This information has seized my imagination with incandescent fingers. I now have yet another book I need to read, another chance to expand my Hemingway collection. It also made me see that I have something in common with Ernest, as well as Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, Stephen Crane and Willa Cather: I worked as a journalist before becoming a writer.
(Okay, I didn't work as a journalist very long, and I'm not a published writer yet; but I will be, dang it. I have some exciting news to tell you on the journalism front, so hang tight for that this weekend.)
But apart from the superficial facts, there's another thing that I realized. All the notes I've made about Korea—all my thoughts on this nation's complexities, dualities, dichotomies and idiosyncrasies—are digital. They're floating around in cyberspace, either on this blog or in various e-zines. I've got a few tiny Mead composition books filled with bus fares, random scribblings in Hangeul, the translated names of exotic dishes, half-finished itineraries and disjointed snatches of poetic prose, but that's it. It's hardly enough to fill a pair of steamer trunks.
This saddens me somewhat.
Part of me feels like walking down to Homeplus (similar to Tesco, and owned by them) and buying up every spiral notebook and composition pad in sight. I'll spend the rest of this year (and the next, if I choose to stay in Korea longer) filling them with every conceivable thought that comes into my head. The loud drone of cicadas in summer. The autumn trees' fireworks display. The children squealing as they escape their last hagwon of the day and sprint for the buses, or the old housewives chattering as they maneuver through the aisles of the supermarket. That annoying little whine that only young Korean women are capable of infusing into the final syllable of their sentences. The Koreans' dislike of China and absolute hatred of Japan. The wailing invasion sirens, tested every six months. Typhoons, cloudbursts and fog-banks. The Han River, lazy and green in summer and frozen solid in winter. The sandy beaches of Busan, the humid heat of the midlands, the fading grandeur at Gyeongju, the tropical paradise of Jeju Island. Kimchi, squid-rice, bulgogi soup and fried sweet potatoes. The cloud factory behind my apartment.
Even if I don't go through with it, and those notebooks are never bought and filled with exciting scribbles, I am going to make a determined effort to write more on this blog about Korea. In addition to my travel writing (which I need to do some more of), and in addition to being more assiduous in my reporting (bus fares, travel times, ports of call), I shall simply give you more info about my bailiwick, and paint a more vivid picture of my life in East Asia.
Sound like a deal?