Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grown-up life is harder than I thought

I buy a lot of books from used bookstores, which means I take a chance on a lot of books I've never heard of. Most of the time I get burned, but every now and then I find something good.

This was how I found Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, a novel I'd never heard of, and it turned out to be the best novel I've read all year. It's not at all the kind of thing I would normally read, but it's amazing (and, for a 560 page novel, an incredibly fast read). I wish I could easily describe what it's about, but it's an awkward sort of novel to summarize in a compact, elevator pitch description ("sprawling modern day Victorian novel featuring Korean-Americans from all walks of life and every rung of the class ladder, poised at the edge of what-do-we-do-with-our-lives and finding their way in mid-1990s Manhattan" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue).

There's an interview with the author (4 parts on YouTube) that does a much better job of describing the novel than anything I could say. So I'll only add that although the book has nothing to do with being an artist (except possibly for protagonist Casey Han's love of making hats), reading it I somehow felt as if it was describing exactly the same trials and pains and pressures that I feel as an artist.

There are probably other books that do exactly the same thing, but Free Food for Millionaires does it really damn well.

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