At dusk, the doorbell rang. I got dressed and answered the door. Books from Amazon. Chang-rae Lee's second and third novels.
I made myself a mug of milk tea and sank into my massive bean bag, A Gesture Life in hand. I read for the next two hours.
His début novel, Native Speaker, which I read earlier this year, shattered me to pieces and put them back together, reconfiguring a sadder and denser me. No other literary texts had done that to me since those of Carol Shields.
And even more than Alice Walker, Chang-rae Lee inspires me to write, to respond to the sensitivity, and the pain, of another human being in my own way.
I will say this: I still prefer his first novel to his second. (What did Amy Tan say about second novels in The Opposite of Fate again? Expectations, expectations...) I had read part of A Gesture Life while studying in Nottingham, and was not too impressed with it back then. But this second time round, I am no longer blind to the exquisiteness of his prose. I have grown accustomed to his narrating voice through Native Speaker, and will recognise it any time I hear it from now on.
Here is the voice, under the disguise of that of Doc Hata at the end of the first chapter. (Those who might argue that the author's voice and the narrator's should both sound distinct from each other and be considered separately, forgive me. I agree. But I have no better way of rephrasing the sentence above, and in a way, it tells the truth, too.) Incidentally, the following is also what literally and metaphorically happened to me tonight.
I often prepared myself an early dinner of soup noodles or a casserole of oden with rice, but I decided to go straight up to my bedroom and read. It wasn't until the middle of the evening that I stopped, when it occurred to me that I should at least have a snack, so that I wouldn't toss in my sleep or wake up famished. I put on my robe and went out to the stairs, but instead of descending, I wandered down the hallway, to the far door, to the room where Sunny once lived.