Yellow Dust Fever

Today was the worst Yellow-Dust-From-China day I’ve seen yet. The whole city was smoggy, to a degree comparable to the smoggiest I saw in Gurgaon — which was shocking at the time — and everyone I saw responded to it. The people climbing the stairs at my station, on the way home, dragged their feet as if they were fifty years older than they really were. It was awful.

Lime advised me to go to a pharmacy and get a face mask for my trips outside, and of course, like a dope, I said it wasn’t for me. I mean, actually, seeing people going around in those facemasks still kind of weirds me out: it’s like something out of a really bad dystopia, you know? So here I am, my respiratoy passages all gummed after a day in Seoul, and I’m feeling stupid for not realizing that, gee, I am living in a real-life eco-dystopia. Duh.

I did get some nice clothing for work, and ran into my friends Chai and Kim on the street by complete and utter chance. I also took the wrong train in my attempt to get home, and had to backtrack for 20 minutes, but anyway, after that, I got to the local TESCO and got some groceries I am needing for the week to come. Getting home was a nightmare, though — it started to rain and every taxi I flagged down refused to go to my destination on the grounds that they’re Seoul taxis and not legally allowed in Bucheon. Except they’re already in Bucheon. How logical is that? I finally gave up, hauled my stuff to the station and up and down the stairs to where I knew there were Bucheon taxis who could not refuse my trip. And now, I’m home.

I also got through 80-some pages of Maureen McHugh’s Half the Day is Night, which I’m finding slightly motre deftly handled than her previous brilliant novel China Mountain Zhang, which, as it’s been one of my favorite SF books for years, is a high compliment. Here, she shifts her narratorial perspective (a kind of “limited omniscient”, at least in the sense of the term as I learned it from Guy Vanderhaeghe) from close alliance with one character to another character chapter by chapter, but doesn’t have to jump into first person voices for each character, which gives her an overall smoothing effect. I like it. Then again, I liked all the voices in China Mountain Zhang, too. I’m reading her not just because it’s a book I brought back from Canada during my last visit, and finally I have a chance to do so, but also because she’s one of the Clarion West instructors. I figure it’s wise to, you know, have a look at as many works by the instructors as I can. I love McHugh’s work, but all I know is her debut novel, so I thought I’d start with her. (Vernor Vinge is next in my pile, and before I finish the five books I have here I’ll have to order others via Whatthebook.com.)

UPDATE: Months later, I’ve revised my views. I still think China Mountain Zhang is a masterpiece, but while I loved Half the Day is Night, in the long term it hasn’t knocked CMZ off the top rung for me as far as Maureen’s novels go. (Though I’ve immensely enjoyed every one I’ve read.)

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