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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Vaseline Buddha

Jung Young Moon

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To purchase Vaseline Buddha

Title: Vaseline Buddha
Author: Jung Young Moon
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 226 pages
Original in: Korean
Availability: Vaseline Buddha - US
Vaseline Buddha - UK
Vaseline Buddha - Canada
Vaseline-Buddha - Deutschland
  • Korean title: 바셀린 붓다
  • Translated by Jung Yewon

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Our Assessment:

B : quite nicely wending stream, of consciousness and more

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 18/8/2016 Tyler Malone

  From the Reviews:
  • "This resistance underpinning the entire exercise makes Jung an heir to Polish novelist Witold Gombrowicz, who understood that writing is the documentation of a dance the writer does between form and chaos. The moment the writer writes, attempting to impose form on the grist of the universe, chaos erupts; yet the moment the writer tries to instill his work with chaos, patterns emerge. Jung, with all his narrator’s chest-beating rants against form, still has to generate it to create a story." - Tyler Malone, The Los Angeles Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Vaseline Buddha begins with the narrator: "thinking vaguely I would write a story" -- and pretty much continues that way. While he doesn't force the issue, it's nevertheless a constant preöccupation -- recording stories and memories and anecdotes, but also letting them shape themselves, rather than imposing tight authorial control over them.
       He admits:

I'm making up new stories by mixing up my memories and thoughts, and linking together things that have nothing to do with each other.
       It's that kind of book, for better and worse, a globe-spanning amble -- the narrator gets around, and much of what he recounts happens abroad -- that's constantly veering off in new directions and circling back to previous thoughts and recollections.
       Little here is hard and fast; memories are vague and malleable, and Jung plays that for all it's worth. And the narrator is willing to drift with the flow -- wherever his writing will take him. So even regarding the title: A Cat Walking on Piano Keys was in the running -- and he also thinks (nearing the end):
Untitled could be a fitting title for this story, which I feel says a lot about a lot of things, but really hasn't said anything at all.
       As to the one he finally settles on, it's hardly settled:
I thought I could give the title Vaseline Buddha -- the name was something that could be given to something indefinable, something unnamable, and also meant untitled -- to what I was writing, but as soon as I did, I though that it wasn't a good idea
       The book is slippery like that -- ironic, of course, in a now-printed book, where every last word is fixed in place -- Jung constantly led from one thing to the next:
     Anecdotes in my memories and images in my imagination dance on a stage from which time, which flows in one direction, has made its exit.
       He does recount episodes and stories -- but even here tends to try to undermine them, sometimes explicitly, as in one carefully built-up tale set in Budapest, finally admitting: "But this unlikely story isn't true" (and then, of course, not leaving it at that either).
       The narrator wonders:
I'm somewhat curious as to what kind of a distorted story will result overall when you devote yourself to the details with no thought to the overall structure.
       Vaseline Buddha more or less does that, and while distorted there's also some underlying control -- this isn't entirely haphazard -- and ultimately there is enough order to it that the whole does cohere. Jung's various anecdotes and small adventures -- from encounters with cows to various girlfriends -- are often entertaining in their details, and with its many distant locales, allowing the narrator to be even more at sea (even if, for example, he often prefers to spend his time in hotel rooms rather than sight-see), there's nice variety and color to the story, too.
       Vaseline Buddha is a navel-gazing, writing-about-writing kind of book, of a fairly familiar sort, but the amiable tone and extensive reach make it a quite enjoyable example of the genre.
       Quite good fun, with some very nice bits.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 June 2016

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Vaseline Buddha: Reviews: Other books by Jung Young Moon under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South Korean author Jung Young Moon (정영문) was born in 1965.

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© 2016-2019 the complete review

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