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Book Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun (translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell)

January 12, 2021 Leave a comment
The cover of the book The Law of Lines.

Summary:
Two young women’s lives are told in parallel beginning with a moment of intense misfortune. Se-oh, who normally avoids leaving the home she shares with her father at all, comes home from an outing he encouraged her to go on to pick up a coat he bought for her birthday to find their home up in flames with her father inside. The detective tells her that her father set off the explosion himself due to debt, setting wheels turning in Se-oh’s life. Ki-jeong, a high school teacher, has a situation with a difficult student come to a head at the same time as she finds out that her younger half-sister’s body was found in a river. How will these two women’s lies come to entwine?

Review:
When I heard about this, it was in the context of it being a thriller. I’m not sure I’d personally call it a thriller, more of a quiet, subtle, literary mystery.

I was deeply moved by Se-oh’s story. Although I did not previously know how debt works in South Korea, once I understood I felt so much empathy for the horribly tight spot Se-oh and her father found themselves in. The more of Se-oh’s story was revealed, the more saddened I was for her. It was like if you saw the aftermath of a car crash and then watched a slow-motion replay of how it came to be. That’s what reading Se-oh’s story was like. It was through Se-oh’s story that I learned the most things that were new to me about South Korean culture, and her story was also what led to me looking up some aspects of it and learning even more.

I was less engaged by Ki-jeong’s story. While I did feel empathy for her being stuck in a job she didn’t like and the apparently difficult situation with her half-sister, I didn’t feel that enough was revealed about her that was positive for me to really be on her side. I suspect I may have gotten more out of Ki-jeong’s story if I was more familiar with South Korean culture, but this is a shortcoming of my own and not the book.

If you are looking to travel to South Korea via subtle yet engaging mystery, I would recommend picking this one up.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Librarians, Enough With the Hero Complex

March 15, 2010 7 comments

Last week, I was chillaxing on my couch, enjoy some crackers and cheese whilst watching tv, and I checked in on my twitter feed.  My twitter feed is an interesting mix of folks–writers, publishers, libraries, gardening tips, celebrities who amuse me, veg folk, real life friends–but predominantly other librarians.  Well, suddenly everybody started tweeting at once.  The freak-out was over loss of funding for Florida libraries.  This turned into everybody bemoaning the fact that nobody understands the importance of libraries.  Then out of the blue, a male librarian said, “Simple truth- police & firefighters can always rehire when times get better. Close a library & what are the chances they’ll bring it back?”
I replied, “Well, y’know, I’d rather my house not burn down than be able to use old crappy computers for free.”
To which a different male librarian replied: “If a fire starts, no matter how much you spend on fire fighters, your house it totalled in a matter of minutes.”

I have refrained from naming them, because this isn’t about these individuals.  It’s about a general attitude going on among librarians that is just wrong and self-centered, and I wanted to illustrate it with actual quotes.  The attitude that libraries are the most important public service, and they–and by extension, librarians–are misunderstood and under-appreciated.  I mean, a book just came out whose subtitle is How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (LibraryThing record of the book here).  You know what? No.  We’re not more important than policemen and firemen.  We’re not even as important.  As librarians, we’re not out there risking our lives to save strangers’ lives.  Contrary to what male librarian #2 said, not all houses burn down anyway, and even if they did, there’s still people to save.  There’s also the fact that the blaze needs to be prevented from spreading, but I digress.

We are librarians.  We are not out there providing for the safety of lives.  The fact that we exist doesn’t make it so people can sleep at night safe in the knowledge that if a fire starts in their house, someone will show up and run into the blaze to save them.  Public librarians, at best, provide educational support outside of the public school system.  At worst, public librarians are providing entertainment to the low income masses, and do you think the low income would rather be entertained or be alive and able to walk down the street safely?

I don’t enjoy the fact that libraries and fire departments are pitted against each other for money.  However, it is an economic crisis.  The money just is not there.  Of course I would rather see libraries’ hours cut instead of the doors closed, but if the choice is keeping the library open a few hours a week or maintaining a safe number of firemen for the community, I would choose the firemen.  You know why?  Because I don’t have some hero complex.

What we’re really seeing is people freaking out because they think either their job won’t exist in the short-term or that libraries are going to cease existing entirely, making their career choice a really poor one.  I get it.  I do.  It sucks to be worrying about getting laid off.  It sucks to wonder if your career will still exist in 10 years, but you know what?  Almost everyone is having to worry about their job right now, if they’re even lucky enough to still have one.  There are also plenty of people worrying that their careers will cease to be an option due to technological advances, changing world economic climate, etc…  I saw it happen to people I care about when the Silicon Valley happened.  Yes, it sucked, but maybe it’s time to admit that you chose your job because you like it.  Because you enjoy organizing things, helping people, books, literacy, and more, and yes that’s more noble than becoming a back-stabbing CEO.  However, it’s not this superhero career.  It’s just a nice one.  One that I certainly hope continues to be needed, but I’m not about to go out there and over-inflate it because I’m worried about jobs.  I’m realistic, and the fact that other librarians are being so unrealistic in the face of this economic crisis is just making us look like a bunch of snobby, privileged, unrealistic bookworms.

(Yes, I realize this post is mainly about public libraries, which is something I strive to avoid, but I haven’t been hearing much of the same thing regarding academic or special libraries.)