A funny, transporting, surprising, and poignant novel that was one of the highest selling debuts of recent years in Korea, LOVE IN THE BIG CITY tells the story of a young gay man searching for happiness in the lonely city of Seoul.
LOVE IN THE BIG CITY
by Sang Young Park
Black Cat/Grove Atlantic, November 2021 (voir catalogue)
LOVE IN THE BIG CITY follows a cynical yet fun-loving Korean student named Young as he pinballs from home to class to bars to the bed of recent Tinder matches. Told in four parts that recall the structure of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, it is an energetic, joyful, and sometimes very moving novel that depicts the nighttime world of Seoul. In the first part, “Jaehee”, we see Young with his best friend and roommate—as a man and woman it is taboo that they are living together, but neither he nor Jaehee care. They go out drinking together, they smoke icecold Marlboro Reds that they keep in their freezer, but Jaehee eventually settles down and gets married, leaving Young stranded and alone. In the second part, “A Spot of Rockfish, Taste the Universe”, Young meets a strikingly tall and handsome man twelve years his senior in his philosophy class. They go out, but there is something cold and sinister about the new man in Young’s life. Meanwhile, his evangelical Christian mother, who caused no end of issues for Young while he was growing up, has been diagnosed with cancer. In the third part, “Love in the Big City” Young meets Q-Ho, the man who will become the love of his young life—but it is a strange kind of love, not very sexual but hugely supportive. Young’s HIV diagnosis comes to the fore in this section, as do flashbacks to his time doing military service. The last part, “Late Rainy Season Vacation” follows Young as he goes on holiday with Q-Ho, and as he meets with a different new lover. As we watch life catch up with Young, we enjoy the highs and sympathize with the lows of his life—the plot brings drama while the authenticity of all that is depicted is profoundly clear. A brilliantly written novel that brings the reader into another place through the author’s powerful sensory descriptions, LOVE IN THE BIG CITY will appeal to readers of Sayaka Murata, Tao Lin, Cho Nam-Joo, Andrea Lawlor, and Kyung-Sook Shin, as well as fans of Netflix shows like Terrace House and Dating Around, and of the Oscar-winning film Parasite.
In Korea LOVE IN THE BIG CITY was a runaway bestseller, hitting the top five lists of all the major bookstores, and going into nine printings. Both award-winning for its unique literary voice and perspective, and particularly resonant with young readers, it has been a phenomenon in Korea and is poised to capture a worldwide readership.
Sang Young Park was born in 1988 and studied French at Sunkyunkwan University. He worked as a magazine editor, copywriter, and consultant for seven years before debuting as a novelist in 2016 and transitioning to writing full-time. He has previously published a bestselling short story collection The Tears of an Unknown Artist, or Zaytun Pasta, the title story of which was Words Without Borders’ single most-read work between its publication in November 2018 to March 2019. An essay collection, I’ll Eat When I Die, was published in March of 2020.