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FICTION

Alchemy of Storytelling: In the Midst of Laughter by Yoon Sunghee

  • onOctober 23, 2014
  • Vol.15 Spring 2012
  • byYi Soo-hyung
In the MIdst of Laughter
2011
312pp.

Yoon Sunghee, who has published three short story collections and a novel since her debut in 1999, has received the Hyundae and Hwang Sun Won Literary Awards as well as numerous other literary prizes. She is known for her unique poetic epic style, which is once again showcased in her fourth collection of short stories, In the Midst of Laughter. Yoon’s writing piques the reader’s curiosity, making one wonder what will happen next. The reason I have used such a hackneyed phrase as piquing one’s curiosity—usually reserved for thrillers—to describe Yoon’s work is because it does, but in a completely different sense.

To analogize her style of writing to a puzzle, her novel is not like putting fragments of an already whole narrative together, but comparable to connecting newly created pieces while the story is being told. That is to say, it is a narrative that is constructed in the present and therefore one is hard pressed to figure out what is going to happen next. For example, in “Boomerang,” the protagonist is working on her autobiography, which is the archetypal narrative for retelling past events one by one. However, in this character’s version, it isn’t the past events but the current happenings that are being told one after the other. Of course, her autobiography is all lies. Then why is she writing it?

Vis-à-vis the story “Boomerang,” it is perhaps because she desires a different life than the one she’s lived. If you can contemplate the past, try to make amends, and seek a different way of life through the act of writing, then writing becomes a powerful tool. Yoon Sunghee’s novel shows the astonishing alchemy of storytelling, which uses the seemingly purposeless events in life as its material for producing new stories.