Cloud Cuckoo Land, which instantly became one of my favorite novels when I read it in October, is a layered, moving story about the power of stories:
“ ‘I know why those librarians read the old stories to you,’ Rex says. ‘Because if it’s told well enough, for as long as the story lasts, you get to slip the trap.’ ”
What’s the trap? A reality that’s too limited, too painful, too ill-fitting. This summer I’ve slipped the trap of our 2021 reality by watching K-Dramas, especially Crash Landing on You, which my BFF and I discovered and watched together in July.
I’ve thought a ton about how the people at Studio Dragon in Seoul created a story that overtook my whole heart. I think it’s partly because Showrunner Park Ji-eun dives into the depth and purity of our most powerful emotions without ironic reserve. She builds longing, grief and joy into a nearly perfect story formula surrounding a courageous (but vulnerable) heroine. When I saw how deeply this show hit me I asked myself: Why am I writing a novel? What do I want the story I am creating to do?
The stories I love are about people who face terrible challenges and come through them grateful, wiser, seen and loved by others and, most importantly, by themselves. Facing obstacles is the most painful and courageous thing we do as humans. It heals a part of me when I fall through the window into a story where I can feel the heroine and hero’s grief, fear and triumph with every part of my heart.
So, as scary as it is, that’s what I’m trying to do with my novel too. To make a case that love is worth the risk and the fear, that healing is possible, that our deepest needs can be met. So I’ll keep going, because I could not go on without stories. It’s my turn to brew some of this magical medicine.
George Saunders, in his miraculous gift of a book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain wrote: “What exactly is it that fiction does? . . . it causes an incremental change in the state of mind. That’s it. . . . .But, you know – it really does. That change is finite but real.
And that’s not nothing.
It’s not everything, but it’s not nothing.”