Title: A GESTURE LIFE - Scarce Fine Copy of The ...
Publisher: New York City, NY: Riverhead Books, 1999
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: 1st Edition.
1st Printing. Signed. 356 pages. Published in 1999. The author's second novel. Now considered a contemporary classic. The First Hardcover Edition. Precedes and should not be confused with all other subsequent editions. Published in a small and limited first print run as a hardcover original only. The First Edition is now scarce. Presents Chang-rae Lee's "A Gesture Life". The novel that affirmed the author's national and international reputation as one of the most important contemporary voices of American literature, it is "a wise and humane novel that both amplifies the themes of identity and exile that he addressed in 'Native Speaker', and creates a wonderfully resonant portrait of a man caught between two cultures and two lives" (The New York Times). European immigrants came to America to start a new life. In doing so, they wiped the slate clean. Even if they eventually trace their roots back to Europe, there is no such thing as a European-American (there are only "white Americans", defined exclusively by skin "color" rather than culture). The more recent, successive waves of immigrants, including Asians, consisted of individuals and families who were unwilling to give up the culture, heritage, and country itself - "The Past" - that they left behind, which indeed haunt and define every nuance of their lives in America. Hence the rise of hyphenated American literature. It is a reality and experience that has no antecedent or equivalent in the culture, even by Harold Bloom's admission (who does not completely approve of the category), at least not in the way that it captures the subtle yet simmering anguish of holding on to something precious while also embracing the ideas and ways of the adopted New Land. Chang-rae Lee does not write about Koreans in "Native Speaker" and "A Gesture Life". He writes about Americans of Korean descent. What has always set his work apart is its quiet, serene, and meditative tone, a style of writing (as well as a world-view) that the demanding literary critic James Wood has praised for its often poetic beauty. Characteristic of all his previous work, Chang-rae Lee is looking back as thoughtfully and reasonably as he possibly can, on the ironies, paradoxes, and anguished dilemmas of the self-uprooted, self-transplanted individual. Many so-called immigrant writers, even the best ones, are really writing (nostalgically and sentimentally) about an imaginary homeland rather than the real one, making Chang-rae Lee's achievement all the more astonishing. An absolute "must-have" title for Chang-rae Lee collectors. This copy is very boldly and beautifully signed in black pen-marker on the title page by Chang-rae Lee. It is signed directly on the page itself, not on a tipped-in page or bookplate. Laid-in is a pristine copy of the Chicago Humanities Festival 2015 Souvenir Program during which event his signature was obtained. This title is a contemporary classic. This is one of few such signed copies of the First Hardcover Edition/First Printing still available online and is in fine condition: Clean, crisp, and bright, a beauty. A scarce signed copy thus. Selected by The New Yorker Magazine as one of the "Twenty Writers for the 21st Century". One of the most brilliant American writers of our time. A fine copy. (SEE ALSO OTHER CHANG-RAE LEE TITLES IN OUR CATALOG) ISBN 1573221465. Bookseller Inventory # 20071
Synopsis: The splendid new novel from the author of Native Speaker
His remarkable debut novel was called "rapturous" ( The New York Times Book Review), "revelatory" ( Vogue), and "wholly innovative" ( Kirkus Reviews). It was the recipient of six major awards, including the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN award. Now Chang-rae Lee has written a powerful and beautifully crafted second novel that leaves no doubt about the extraordinary depth and range of his talent.
A Gesture Life is the story of a proper man, an upstanding citizen who has come to epitomize the decorous values of his New York suburban town. Courteous, honest, hardworking, and impenetrable, Franklin Hata, a Japanese man of Korean birth, is careful never to overstep his boundaries and to make his neighbors comfortable in his presence. Yet as his story unfolds, precipitated by the small events surrounding him, we see his life begin to unravel. Gradually we learn the mystery that has shaped the core of his being: his terrible, forbidden love for a young Korean Comfort Woman when he served as a medic in the Japanese army during World War II.
In A Gesture Life, Chang-rae Lee leads us with dazzling control through a taut, suspenseful story about love, family, and community--and the secrets we harbor. As in Native Speaker, he writes of the ways outsiders conform in order to survive and the price they pay for doing so. It is a haunting, breathtaking display of talent by an acclaimed young author.
Review: Never judge a book by its cover--or, for that matter, by its name. Otherwise you might overlook A Gesture Life, Chang-rae Lee's fine if awkwardly entitled follow-up to Native Speaker. As he did in his debut, the author explores the dilemma of being an outsider--and the corrupt, heartbreaking bargains an outsider will make to adapt to his surroundings. The protagonist, Franklin Hata, has actually spent his whole life donning one variety or another of existential camouflage. First, as a native-born Korean, he bends over backwards to fit into Japanese culture, circa 1944. Then he attempts a similar bit of environmental adaptation in postwar America--more specifically, in the slumbering New York suburb of Bedley Run. But in neither case does he quite succeed, which gives the novel its peculiar, faltering sense of tragedy.
"There is something exemplary to the sensation of near perfect lightness," confesses this resident alien, "of being in a place and not being there, which seems of course a chronic condition of my life but then, too, its everyday unction, the trouble finding a remedy but not quite a cure, so that the problem naturally proliferates until it has become you through and through. Such is the cast of my belonging, molding to whatever is at hand."
A Gesture Life presents this chronic condition in two different time frames. In one, delivered via flashback, Hata is a medical officer in Japan's Imperial Army. Posted to a tiny installation in rural Burma, he's ordered to oversee a fresh detachment of Korean "comfort women"--i.e., victims of institutionalized gang rape. At first he maintains his professional distance, not to mention his erotic appetite: "It was the notion of what lay beneath the crumpled cotton of their poor clothes that shook me like an air-raid siren." But soon enough he's drawn into a relationship with one of the women, whose bloody and horrific denouement leaves a permanent mark on the "unblissed detachment" of his existence.
The present-tense, American half of the story revolves around Hata's life in Bedley Run, where he adopts, alienates, and finally forms a shaky rapport with his daughter, Sunny. We might expect this sort of material to pale in comparison with his wartime trauma. But oddly enough, Hata's suburban melancholia is much more compelling--and the gradual disclosure of his past, which is supposed to ratchet up the tension, seems too crude a mechanism for a writer of Lee's superlative talents. (His truest tutelary spirit, in fact, might be John Cheever, who gets an explicit nod at one point.) None of this is to dismiss A Gesture Life, whose dual narratives are written with a rare, unhurried elegance. And if Lee's splice job lacks the absolute adhesion we expect from a great work of art, he nonetheless pulls off a remarkable, moving feat: he puts us inside the skin of a man who, "if he could choose, might always go silent and unseen." --James Marcus
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