Krys Lee on South Korea, Writing, and Disaster by Jeff Kingston

Jeff Kingston bumps into Lee in a subway station and starts a conversation with her: LARB

KrysleeI recently caught up with Krys Lee, author of the acclaimed short story collection Drifting House (2012). Emerging from the Digital Media City (DMC) subway station, I saw a woman reading Roland Barthe’s Image, Music, Text and figured it must be her.

After buying some mangoes (three for about $5) from a truck vendor we fell into conversation walking through the ghost town of DMC, a gleaming complex of office towers, wide boulevards, open plazas, snazzy sculptures, and very few pedestrians. It is only 30 minutes by subway from the teeming streets of central Seoul, but feels like a distant futuristic planet and, shall we say, a bit soulless. Lee points out all the leading media and production companies that jumped on board this government project to establish a thriving media hub, but early on a Friday night, the lights were dim and sidewalks rolled up.

Lee has a busy schedule of overseas readings, conferences, and festivals on top of teaching creative writing at Seoul’s Yonsei University and writing a newspaper column, but comes across as calm, friendly, and unhurried. In April she won the lottery for promising young writers: the prestigious Rome Prize for fiction. So, later this year she will get to enjoy a somewhat less hectic and more pampered life in the plush confines of the American Academy in Rome where she will have time to revise and rework the draft of her new novel in the Eternal City surrounded by about 30 other bright lights from a range of disciplines. As the evening progressed it seemed obvious they made a good choice.

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