This is a permanent collection. There’s a lot going on here. A lot of history. Not that many history books mind you.These shelves contain a few stories in the own right, not to mention so many memories of friends who have left Korea over the years.
The most significant feature in my apartment is probably the bookshelf. It’s a tall double-rowed case five bays high, but we’ve pushed it down on its side and it functions now as a room longth mantle piece where our television and family pictures now sit. Each of the book shelf bays is full, although not completely with books.
These shelves contain birthday presents, leftovers, welcome gifts, freebies, forgotten treasures, and pilfered property, to name a few. I brought most of these books here from Ireland, and now as I look at them I see a picture emerging, but it’s probably only one that I can recognise.
Over the years I’ve collected books on all kinds of subjects. Some of them I’ve bought in Ireland, some of them in England while I was doing my masters, and I’ve also bought plenty of magazines and notebooks which have taken up space in these shelves also. Interestingly, there are not that many books which I bought in Korea. A lot of the books I’ve acquired in Korea have been given to me by friends as I haven’t really needed to buy many new books. When we came back to Korea from Ireland, I (stubbornly) brought an entire library of books, many of which I used during my MA, and many I had just bought and wanted to read. All the books from my previous sojourns were either traded in or are still packed in boxes in a concrete shed surrounded by rice paddies in Jumunjin.
Herself also has her own collection of books which she has picked up over time. Although, she is more practical and prefers to rent them from the library – having a husband who works in a university helps here. One thing you’ll notice if you look closely is that there’s a lot of Haruki Murakami books there. Herself is a big fan of his work. Usually she’s quite reserved in her cultural tastes, especially for art and film, but when she loves Murakami. I think this is a nice contradiction.
You can’t see it so much in this photograph, but scattered throughout my little library is an always increasing amount of poetry, both regular collections new and old and magazines from Ireland – which are fantastic because they always give a truly contemporary perspective of modern poetry. I love to buy poetry, and these days poetry books are the only books I buy. I suppose this is because I still have so many other books to read. Poetry is different. It’s how I spoil myself. It’s one of the few treats I allow myself. Poetry and alcohol.
Here’s another look at another treat of mine; my birthday present for the past year and a half or so. As I said before, I have a subscription to The New Yorker, and I do my best to read it all or as much as is interesting – which is often quite a lot. I keep them here, right next the Soju Tense, a self published poetry book/magazine that myself and some other writers I know put together back in the day. We sold these for 5,000 won a copy, but I am sure we never even came close to breaking even. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last batch left over. I’m certainly the last of the group who edited the final copy left here. If you want one, let me know. As for The New Yorkers… I reckon I’ll have to find a new home for them soon.
As I said, there are a lot of books here. There are several that I’ve never even read. I’ve always aspired to read them but for some reason I’ve let myself down. Still, I like to admire my book shelves. This is probably one of those things that I like about my home here, even though we rarely have visitors, I like to show my books so that anyone who visits can see. Maybe it makes me feel more intelligent. A bit like a sense of status or something. Maybe. I just like books. I just wish I could read them as much as I lay claim to.