Time To Get down to Business

by Mark Chmiel

“I always knew you were majnoon.”
“I never denied it.”

“But this time you’ve gone too far.”
“It makes perfect sense to me!”

“You want to learn…”
“Judge ye not!”

“You want to learn Korean, is that right?”
Verdad. Korean it is.”

“Why would you want to do something so, so impractical?”
“Sez who?”

“Says anyone! Give me a decent answer.”
“You obviously don’t know me.”

“I think I’m afraid to know you, this is so ridiculous!”
“I don’t think so at all.”

“At least Spanish would be practical, or Italian would be beautiful, or Mandarin would be astute…”
“You. Are. Just. Ignorant.”

“Ignorant of your über -eccentricity, that’s for sure.”
“No, no, no, I don’t mean that in a mean way…”

“Well, then, how do you mean it?”
“I can tell you’ve never read Ko Un.”

“Who?”
“The great Korean writer, who else?”

“So that’s what this is all about, eh?”
“He’s exactly what this is about!”

“You want to spend a few thousand hours of your life–you’re getting plenty of wrinkles, haven’t you noticed–learning an Eastern language so you can read some Ko Un guy, is that right?”
“Yep.”

Meshugah, like I said.”
“See, I read the English translation of Ten Thousand Lives.”

“And?”
“It’s only one volume.”

“So?”
“This is Ko Un’s chef-d’œuvre, it’s close to thirty volumes long!!!”

“You want to learn Korean so you can read all twenty-something books of his?”
“Exacto!”

“Uh, listen, I gotta go, I’m due back on Planet Earth…”
“It’s his vow, his vow, from when he was in prison, to write a poem about every person he’s ever met, all the greats and nobodies of Korean history, and beyond!”

“I don’t get it…”
“It’s so simple! It’s so brilliant! It’s so daring! It’s so inspiring! I want to read Ko Un in his own language!”

“You’re out of your mind!”
“If you say so … but some day … brace yourself, Harvey Silverman … I’m gonna write a poem … about you!”

–from on-going novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

 

Ko Un and ALl His Books

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