Review of ‘Please Look After Mother’ and a (sort of) tribute to Noh Hee Kyung’s craft

After finishing Shin Kyung Sook’s “Please Look After Mother” – which I teared up more often than not from page 4 to the very end – I had a pretty good feeling about Korean literature. I felt that if there was another language that I could learn, it would be Korean because these writers have such great ways to evoke strong emotions in people. They reach into the depths of your heart and tug hard at your heartstrings. I may not be a writer but as a reader, a good book (or even a good movie and drama) would be one that is able to touch your deepest part and make you feel the same pain or joy.
Later on, after watching 10 episodes of ‘That Winter, the Wind Blows’, I came across a link of Noh Hee Kyung’s essay translation from the book “All the Ones Not In Love Now are Guilty“.

Her published collection of essays include letters to her deceased mother, a fellow PD, veteran actresses that she admire and enjoyed working with as well as advice for aspiring writers and commentary on a film.

Her essays about her mother was one of those that reaches into a person and tugs at heartstrings because after all, everyone has a mother and these stories are always able to reach into someone.

When I read about the writer’s own birth story, it reminded me traces of Oh Soo from her recent drama. Just like how Oh Soo was abandoned under a tree in the freezing winter, writer Noh Hee Kyung had also been left on the floor after her birth for an entire week. Perhaps, in a way or another, she has felt herself being abandoned before. And despite all of that, like Oh Soo, she still loves her mother. He still wanted to see his mother. He also thirsts for some form of love.

And one thing I have realised about the way Korean literature tend to works is that they do address the readers as ‘you’. Whether seen as an omniscient and godly manner of observing or using second-person narrative, it evokes the feeling of a more personalised point of view to the readers. It allows the reader a feeling of being included in the story. Of course, another important element is to be able to relate to the story itself. “Please Look After Mother” did this with much precision. For one, it must be because everyone has had a lifetime of motherly love or would have lacked that. Both of it boils down to the mother guilt trope which grabs the readers right in the heart.

Similarly, Noh Hee Kyung has quite a few essays about her relationship with her mother. As always, this story gets to the heart. And she has mentioned about how these stories of her own helped her in writing drama scripts. After all, as Socrates has mentioned (as quoted by Plato in his Apology) “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Noh Hee Kyung is such a person. She lives through daily life, paying attention to minute details and these are the little things that make a good drama script and character.

Her great writing is inspirational. It pushes you in funny little ways to improve and do better at writing; even going as far as picking up that old notebook and a pen you have left untouched for what feels like ages. It makes you want to go on and write a script or a piece of great writing and see how it would turn out.

She is, in the simplest ways, an inspiration to all aspiring writers. And if not, she is a great read for all avid readers who enjoy a little dose of life and reality.


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