Some love Eun, others disdain her

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Some love Eun, others disdain her

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Eun Hee-gyeong, the author of “Beauty Disdains Me.”

The novelist Eun Hee-gyeong has established a genre of her own. At least that’s the description of her work used by literary critic Shin Hyeong-cheol in discussing Eun’s latest novel “Beauty Disdains Me.”
It seems an appropriate description of this exciting author.
In every genre there are certain ways to develop an idea. In the horror genre, for example, the main character almost never dies. Eun’s novels also use a distinctive approach to describing an incident. They are full of sarcasm and dysphemism, with lucid phrases and tight narration.
There are other reasons why Eun can claim a genre of her own.
Every genre has fans and enemies and Eun’s books are no exception. Her fans tend to read every one of the phrases in her books, dissecting every scene. For those who don’t identify with her style, her books seem full of mysterious codes or meaningless chatter that leaves them bored.
Her latest novel is a good example. It’s almost certain that readers will be divided into two groups. Either they will praise her approach, or they will put it down after the first chapter.
The novel began life as a short story and it caused controversy in literary circles last summer when published as a book with five other pieces.
At first glance it reads like an advertising flier containing banal information about diet.
The story examines the life of its narrator, a 35-year old male, who is trying to loose 12 kilograms over six weeks.
As he desperately tries to reach his goal, the book lays out hundreds of ideas about losing weight.
The book is written in a style that will appeal most to readers who already appreciate her style of writing, including phrases like “overeating is a genetic flaw that’s designed into the human body.”
It also includes sentences like “I was essentially born as a mistake.”
Later in the story the narrator talks about himself. He was born out of wedlock, his father is a very different type of man. The father is too cool and proud, but “I,” who was born as a mistake, is overweight. The narrator then begins talking about the sorrows of being overweight.
“People who are overweight are noticeable, not because we have a large figure, but because people can’ take their eyes off us. They realize that overweight people are different from themselves.”
The narrator decides to lose weight after he learns that his father has a terminal illness. He hopes to make his father proud of him, at least once.
His attempt to lose six kilograms, in a way, is like a search for his spiritual core and it is presented in the book as the narrator’s search for enlightenment.
After he visits his father’s funeral, the weight-loss ritual finally ends.
That’s not the story’s end, however. The way the author describes the funeral scene presents a striking idea that reverses the entire direction of the story.
The way Eun achieves this is so subtle that she manages to change the impression of the obese narrator that had been built to this point.
However, don’t complain about this to the author. Eun, after all, has never been a kind to her readers.
She once said that “as a reader I seek refreshing angles from a book. My attitude as a writer isn’t so different.”
Perhaps that’s something to be aware of before reading her work. The impression one has of her books can differ, depending on one or two phrases in the story.
Her fans say that her style has changed over the years. Indeed it has become drier.


By Sohn Min-ho JoongAng Ilbo [myfeast@joongang.co.kr]
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