World of Lint

  • onMarch 8, 2016
  • Vol.31 Spring 2016
  • byKim Junghyuk

I’ve never been to New York. I haven’t been to Singapore, either. I don’t like rum. Rum, to me, is sacred music. The desk where I do my writing is two meters long. Those two meters are divided into four zones of exactly fifty centimeters each. Paper and pencil to the left, something to drink on the right, and a laptop in the middle. In the mornings, I drink coffee, and in the evenings, water. I’ve been to London. I love the weather there. I’ve been to Paris too, but the weather in Paris isn’t as dark and damp as in London. I savor my cup of tea as evening sets in, accompanied by a dampness that seeps into my bones. A guitar hangs on the wall opposite the desk. I contemplate the guitar and picture myself strumming it. I know how to play but not with the consummate ease I display in my vision. So, every day I imagine but never play. Now and then, my ears catch the strains of a guitarbeing strummed, but I can’t tell if they’re real or if I’m hearing things. When the writing doesn’t flow, I switch on a TV channel that plays classical music. I keep it on mute. The sounds of the orchestra strain to flow out of the screen. I often watch operas too. Likewise, I kill the sound. A man strikes down a woman with an axe. The shadow the axe casts upon the wall slices through the woman’s shadow. It’s an opera by Verdi. I’ve never been to Boston. I haven’t been to Oakland, either. Oakland is the home ground of my favorite basketball team. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson play for it. The games, too, I watch without the sound. I like the sound of the ball bouncing off the floor, but it makes me dizzy. The sound of the ball is always louder than what I expect. The echo of the ball rebounding off the floor, interspersed with the sounds of shoes skidding across the court, should sound beautiful. I’m writing a love story. A story about a man and a woman. In “Lint” Richard Brautigan writes: “I’m haunted a little this evening by feelings that have no vocabulary and events that should be explained in dimensions of lint rather than words. I’ve been examining half-scraps of my childhood. They are pieces of distant life that have no form or meaning. They are things that just happened, like lint.” That’s the whole story—fiftytwo words long. Right above the guitar, hangs a huge panel. The characters of my love story live up there. According to the character chart, A loves B and so does C. D wants to kill A but also hates C. I want to know the whole story but I’ll have to wait for a while. I have several months of waiting ahead of me before the love story comes to a conclusion. To read the novel, I’ll have to wait until I finish writing it. I want to portray an expansive world but the only world I know is that of lint. I picture bits of lint dancing in the air. I’ve been to Tokyo. I’ve been to Osaka and Sapporo. I’ve been to Niigata too. On my way there, I was thinking of Kawabata Yasunari’s Snow Country. Kawabata wrote the opening lines of his novel in Niigata. “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky.” An escalator has been installed at the ryokan inn where Kawabata stayed while writing the book. I concentrate on my love story again. It’s a story of people loving people. I visualize people of other countries. I find it amazing that people who speak different languages share the same love. I slip in a joke in the middle of the story. The joke is quite funny, but I’m not sure yet if it heightens the romance or if it brings it down. If I eliminate all the sounds around my desk, I can hear the hubbub of water running through pipes. I can’t tell which house the sounds are coming from. I don’t know if you’ve been to Seoul. It’s a noisy city. The lights keep shining even after nightfall, and the bars keep teeming with drunks. The people here have a fiery temperament, but they love with the same fire. Winters here aren’t as dark and damp as in London, but they’re suitably nippy for afternoon tea. The alleyways here are slowly disappearing and this worries me. I live in this city. Or, more precisely, in its suburbs. It’s colder in the suburbs by a degree. I’m drawing with an Apple Pencil on the iPad I bought a few days ago. I’m sketching scenes from my novel. Whenever I write, I visualize a place faraway. Further away than Tokyo or Niigata, past New York, London, or Paris, more distant than Stockholm. I fly off into the grey distance. To a place probably more farflung than the fringes of our galaxy, maybe even out of this universe. I’m flying off far away when I notice bits of lint stuck to my clothes. The moment I grab and pluck the lint, I’m transported back in a flash. I return from a place even further away than the universe. I’m seated at my desk, before me is the guitar, and it is silent. Above the guitar, hangs a massive blueprint of my love story. 


by Kim Junghyuk

Author's Profile

Kim Junghyuk is a writer, film critic, music columnist, and cartoonist. He has received the Dongin Literary Award and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. French editions of his books include Your Shadow Is a Monday (Les ombres du lundi), Zombies (Zombies, la descente aux enfers), Wandering Bus (Bus errant), and The Library of Musical Instruments (La bibliothèque des instruments de musique) published by Decrescenzo éditeurs. English editions of his books include The Library of Musical Instruments published by Dalkey Archive Press.