Traveling back through words

Now, this post might be a little late, but I would venture to say that relatively few people have heard of Simon Winchester, or at least about the reprint of his book Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles, which was originally printed in the 1980s. I picked this up in a bookstore in Manhattan’s West Village during the summer, though the cheese title and the usually arrogant tone of foreigners writing about Korea made me a bit wary to do so. I recently finished it (finally having some downtime to read), and was pleasantly surprised at what I thought was a witty and astute narrative about a real journey through the country that has so entangled my heart.

Customer reviews I read on amazon harshly knocked the book, some calling it “arrogant” and “disappointing.” But Winchester’s observations seem to be snapshots taken through a clear lens: the graceful aspects of Korean life and culture preserved along with the quirks and warts. His story is unique, having travelled the entire length of South Korea on foot, from Jeju island to the JSA. While the vulgar nature his interactions with American troops made me cringe, the tales of long walks through the Korean countryside and chance conversations with locals evoke the character of the nation, and provide a great historical context for the state of Korea today.

Admittedly, having a prior interest really makes the book all the more appealling – but in no way was the read disappointing. Winchester’s tone is humorous and sensitive to the details that make a story truly compelling. In seeing the Amazon reviews, either I’ve missed something, or they have.

Recently, I came across another writer, Rolf Potts, whose words have been tugging my mind back to thoughts of Korea. I came across a series of articles by him published on Slate back in October about a new film called Expats, which will to be the first American film to touch on expatriate life in South Korea. Potts, a well-known travel writer who lived for over two years in Busan (and wrote about it for Salon) as an expat English teacher, offers a unique insight into the world of expat life. He is sharply observant, and the world he describes is vivid. I’ll be careful not to sound like I’m fawning, but Potts writes like I want to write: without fluff, with every word painting a clear picture of his experience.

Taking all this in, I can’t help but feel homesick…for one of my homes.


2 Responses to “Traveling back through words”

  1. 1 anonimnous February 28, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    I’ must to say that, still ther it is the bealiving, that the american gov, people’s country, them are how unproud, working for money, as for any criminal’s people from many countries, comming to call for help, to stole the public, money latter after them kill to the witnees rich’est criminal, by example, them give the hand to stole public money, to marcos, to sha de Iran, to some body from Irak, ther must to be a commision from the united nations, to can view how happend to those money, and how them are been spend, see you latter, bye.- god safe’s

  1. 1 And So We Ramble Far From Home « The Daily Transit Trackback on May 23, 2008 at 10:07 am
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