Happy Mother’s Day weekend! To begin the celebration early, check out the essay I wrote for the Modern Love section of The New York Times. It’s online now; the print version will appear in the Sunday paper.
Overfed on a Mother’s Affection
By SUNG J. WOO
My mother held out a Tupperware container of chicken thighs and drumsticks, roasted with kimchi, bell peppers, onions and scallions. It’s a great dish, one of my favorites.
“No,” I said.
My mother and I don’t fight often nowadays, because I’m 41 and she’s 72 and we lead separate lives. I see her once every two weeks. She makes me lunch, we shop at Costco, she makes me dinner, then she sends me off with grocery bags full of her cooking.
We’ve been on this schedule for the last eight years, since my father passed away. But on this evening, near the end of my visit to her senior apartment, I could tell we were going to argue.
“Just take it,” she said.
“It’s just one more.” There was an edge to her voice. “Why are you being difficult?”
LitCrawl 2011/Dirty Laundry! The Launderette on Second Avenue was packed, as you can see from the photo below:
credit: nytimes/Jake Sugarman
We got some love from the local arm of the New York Times, too. I read a flash piece titled Sacrifices, which appears below. But before that, some more pictures. Big thanks to my wife for taking these great photos and also editing my story.
After a Complaint Box essay, the good folks at the Times follow up with various reader reactions. As of now, there are 151 comments from the readers on the web, and I think these two might be my favorite:
1. Better loud and occupied than silent and empty or worse yet, visited only by cranky Sung J Woo.
2. I’m dismayed see you lead off with yet another hackneyed stereotype of librarians: “…and the occasional shush — delivered with an index finger crossing the lips of a bespectacled, cardigan-wearing librarian.” Get with it, Mr. Woo. I’m a librarian, and I shop at Express.
Way to put me and my best Andy Rooney impression in my place! I love it. As a writer, it’s a rare gift to see so many direct opinions from readers. Thank you to all who have contributed — keep them coming!
There’s an essay on the flaccidity of the new crop of male fiction writers in the current issue of the Book Review. Basically, Katie Roiphe is saying the oldies (Philip Roth, John Updike, Saul Bellow, etc.) wrote about sex and the getting of sex and the having of sex while the newies (Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace, Michael Chabon, etc.) are neutered. The exact quote:
The younger writers are so self-conscious, so steeped in a certain kind of liberal education, that their characters can’t condone even their own sexual impulses; they are, in short, too cool for sex.
Is this true? To some degree, but I’m not sure if it’s liberal education that’s at fault. Instead, I think Roiphe forgot about four very huge letters that loomed as large as anything in the fear cache of my childhood: AIDS. I can still remember seeing a man on TV with open sores all over his body, and the TV announcer more or less saying, “Have sex, and this will happen to you.” That’s something you just don’t ever forget.
Secondly, I can think of two contemporary male authors off the top of my head who have no problems whatsoever writing about sex: Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and Chuck Palahniuk (Choke). The sex may have become more violent, but it’s still quite prevalent.