Excerpt from Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Love in the Big City

by Sang Young Park

Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park X
Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2021, 240 pages

    Nov 2022, 256 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


The summer we turned twenty, Jaehee and I became best friends.

I had a funny drinking rule back then—I would do anything I was told by whoever bought me a drink—and so on that fateful day, there I was again with a man of an uncertain age in the Hamilton Hotel parking lot, sucking face. He had bought me about six shots of tequila at some basement club. The moon and streetlamps and neon signs of the whole world seemed to be shining their lights just for me, and I could still hear the strains of a Kylie Minogue remix in my ear. It wasn't important who the guy was. The only thing that mattered was that I existed with someone, there in those dark streets of the city, and that was why I was wrestling tongues with a stranger. Just when I thought the heat of the whole world was about to overflow, just for me, I felt a hard slap on my back. In the midst of my complete drunkenness I thought, A hate crime! And in full drama-queen mode, I detached my lips from his and turned around, ready for a fistfight—but there stood Jaehee. As always, she was holding a lipstick-smudged Marlboro Red in one hand, and the sight of her instantly sobered me up. Jaehee could barely catch her breath as she laughed at how shocked I was to see her. Then she said, in her typically brash voice:

—Just eat him, why don't you?

Before I knew what was happening, I'd burst out laughing at her joke, and at some point I realized the man I was kissing had disappeared, and I can't even recall his face now. But I do remember more or less what Jaehee and I talked about in the parking lot.

—You'll keep it a secret around campus, right?

—Of course. I'm a broke bitch, but I'm loyal.

—Weren't you surprised? Me with a man.

—Not at all.

—Since when did you know?

—Since the moment I laid eyes on you.

The usual cliché.

Up until then I didn't know Jaehee very well; she was just a girl who wore short-shorts and was always first to run out of class, desperate for a cigarette. Actually, she was pretty close to having the worst reputation in the department.

Even if I did end up an outsider among the French majors at our college, I hadn't been like that from the beginning, when I was still invited to parties by our male upperclassmen sunbaes just because I happened to be a taller-than-average male. These gatherings always took the same course, all the guys going to the pool hall or PC rooms first, then to a restaurant specializing in MSG cuisine to make the soju flow, then picking one of the less messy sunbaes' rooms to drink more and talk about girls until we collapsed, snoring. Standard-issue nineteen- and twenty-year-olds talking about what a big deal they were and what great sex they were having, how well they satisfied their women, which of the French department girls were easy. And Jaehee was someone they kept returning to. Listening to their stories that were obviously at least half fiction, and fed up with wondering why I had to put up with this shit even in college, I came to a point where I drunk-shouted, "Fucking stop it with the bullshit, you all have faces like rat dicks," and flipped the table, after which I was never invited to hang out again.

As is the nature of any group, a member who had fled the fold was inevitably fated to remain as gossip fodder thereafter. Tired of their exhaustive critiques of the female frosh, they tossed me into the meat grinder instead, saying I seemed gay and was hanging out in Itaewon doing God knows what, spreading the kind of rumors only a bunch of innocent nineteen-year-olds would care about, half of which were true. (Truth always surpasses fiction.) Barely a semester had gone by when almost the entire department knew who I was, and I'd heard the rumors myself, making me the butt of everyone's jokes. I guess I'll never make friends in this department, not that they can drink to save their lives, and they're boring as hell. As I was consoling myself with such self-justifications, Jaehee veered into my life.

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Excerpted from Love in the Big City © 2021 Sang Young Park. All rights reserved. English translation © 2021 by Anton Hur. Original title: Daedoshiaeh Sarangbeop. Original Korean edition published by Changbi Publishers, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

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