Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Everything Asian"

Sung J. Woo's short stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, McSweeney’s, and KoreAm Journal. His short film was an audience choice screening of the NYC Downtown Short Film Festival 2008.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Everything Asian, and reported the following:
The thing I was most afraid of was this: that my page 69 would be blank. Lucky for me, it’s page 70 that’s got nothing on it.

Page 69 is a short one, with just a single paragraph, but it serves a crucial purpose: a transition point to bring the reader back to the central characters of the novel, the Kims. With Everything Asian, I wanted to write a book that tells two stories: the struggles of a Korean family as they reunite in America for the first time in five years, and the story of Peddlers Town, the mall where the Kims run their store. The odd chapters are told in the first person by David, the son. The even chapters are in the third person, and in earlier versions, each one was devoted to different merchants in the mall and how they perceived and interacted with the Kims. However, in rewrites, it became clear that those earlier even chapters needed to stay closer to the family, so the second chapter is now from the point of view of David’s sister.

With the fourth chapter, I move away from the Kims for the first time, and the man who takes center stage is Mr. Hong, who owns a luggage store in Peddlers Town and also happens to be Mr. Kim’s compatriot. Since much of the plot concerns Mr. Hong, I had to make sure the focus returned to the Kims at the end of this chapter. As he walks around Peddlers Town, Mr. Hong notices a new store moving in. This is the last sentence on page 69:

“One guy was holding a big blue vase that looked identical to what Kim sold, and the other rolled in a clothing rack packed with red and blue Chinese satin dresses.”

The following chapter is titled “A Touch of Asia,” the name of this new shop. And as it turns out, this mall ain’t big enough for two oriental gift shops.
Read an excerpt from Everything Asian, and learn more about the book and author at Sung J. Woo's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue