Dangerous Reading


Kim Kyung-uk

Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé

Published in Koreana: Korean Culture &  Arts (The Korea Foundation) Vol. 28, No.3 Autumn, 2014. Pages 86 - 99.



You are busy today. So busy that you cannot reply even briefly to each visitor’s comment. You were busy yesterday, as well. So busy you could not begin to think of changing the outdated background music. You were busy the day before, too. So busy you could not upload a single new photo. It was three days ago that you began to be busy. Three days ago, the day a heavy rain alert was issued for the central regions, a heavy rain warning for the south. The rain was accompanied by thunder and lightning. I wonder where you are now and what you are doing.

If you have found a new job, you won’t have had time to breathe. Or perhaps you’ve cashed in a savings account and gone traveling abroad? Not with that boyfriend you said you were breaking up with, surely? Perhaps you’ve suffered some kind of damage from the monsoon rains? Have you managed to burn the bread you were baking? Have you really been busy? While I was daydreaming about your recent doings, the books on my desk were getting soaked by the rain seeping through a gap in the window. Among the rain-soaked books were some that you had once borrowed.

In order to check the damage I flipped through the pages and discovered a red stain. A felt pen mark had smudged in the rain. It had not been there before I lent you the book, so clearly it was you who had underlined something. Not that I mind. It was I who had suggested lending you the book and it was I who said you may underline things. The phrase you had underlined was: If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Nietzsche of course. As I gazed at the stain, I had the impression that the stain was gazing up at me, instead of me gazing at the stain. It was the last book you borrowed from me. Cancel that word “last.” “Last” is the last word weak souls looking for consolation should use. So this must be the last use of “last.”

The rain, that poured down as if it would go on forever, was unable to keep it up beyond the second day and night; it abated, but there is no way your busy life can loosen up. I am pained that you are so busy, and also relieved that you are so busy. Because your busy life may finally send you back to me. The people who visit me are either lazy, wallowing too easily in shame at being good-for-nothings, or they are so busy that they have no time to enjoy the satisfaction of being useful. If you ever decide to come back to me, I shall understand your neglect of me without a murmur. Did I tell you when you borrowed this book what Nietzsche cried out in Turin in 1889, as he suddenly flung his arms around the neck of a horse that was being whipped by its groom? “I understand you.” Likewise, I understand your busy-ness. Even the red staineverything, I understand everything. That’s my job, after all.


“I have heard of music therapists and art therapists, but I had no idea there were book therapists. You must have read an enormous amount.” Nine out of ten people react this way upon receiving my name card. “I’m not a book therapist, I’m a reading therapist.” My response to their vulgar curiosity is firm. There are even people who ask, “What book’s worth reading nowadays?” I reply with a serious air, “Pay me first, then ask.” A reading therapistI am someone who heals the heart’s sickness with books. Just as a doctor diagnoses then prescribes treatment for his patients, I check my client’s psychological state then recommend a book that might be of help. Eighty percent of the effect of any medicine is placebo effect. When it comes to placebo effect, there is nothing to equal a book. And there are almost no side effects. Addiction? So much the better.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who don’t read books and those who cannot. My clients are mostly the latter kind. I deal with people who want to read a book but cannot make up their minds, people who are at a loss as to what book they should read. If the fact of there being too many books in the world is a problem, it is considerably more of a problem for them. Come unto me, all you who resolutely enter a bookstore or library but then turn back, overwhelmed by all the books crammed into every shelf, or you who read the books others have read but cannot satisfy the hunger in your hearts. Come and find peace, seek a new life.

“Is treatment by books really possible?” you asked. You were one of those clients who needed to be convinced they have come to the right place. “At the entrance to the library in Thebes there was an inscription: ‘Medicine for the soul,’” I replied in a voice full of conviction. You nodded like a meek student. You even muttered apologetically, “I’m sorry, asking a stupid question when I don’t know anything.” You looked as though you were on the verge of tears. The consultation didn’t seem like an easy one. That was how I first met you, with no special expectation or particular thrill. A book discovered by chance on a secluded, shabby shelf; a book that had never been checked out and had only a slender sense of existing. You were that kind of book. When I asked why you came to me, you replied, “I’m a complete good-for-nothing. I’m useless.”


When I first meet clients, I have them fill out a reading card. Nothing grandiose. Just collecting basic information about their reading preferences and habits. You need only think of the medical history card you fill out when you go to a hospital. Why not, after all? The card where you write down your blood type, height, weight, medical history, and so on. Sometimes the questions on a medical card are so personal, you feel embarrassed as you fill in the answers. Some time ago I went to see a dentist for a cavity and had to fill out a dental record card. I could put up with the question whether I brushed my teeth before going to bed but had to throw up my hands at the question whether my breath stank and how badly. In comparison to that, the reading card my clients fill out is exceedingly tactful and decorous. What books have you read recently? What book moved you deeply? What books would you like to recommend to someone you care about? What books would you like to read in the future? The best kind of questionnaire encourages people to write the truth, not aim for “correct” answers. For that to work, you first have to overcome the distrust of the person doing the answering.

People involved in counseling adolescents who have been removed from society after committing a crime have discovered that curiosity is the natural foil to distrust. I once counseled a young man who had systematically set fire to high-end imported cars. After three sessions, I had still not gotten that young serial arsonist to say a word. What finally opened his mouth, that I thought would never open, was a book I happened to have brought with me.

That young man was found guilty of a total of seven counts of arson and was silently hanging back without a sliver of hope, so what was it that made his eyes light up? It might have been the unusual title; it might have been the way the cover design reminded him of leaping flames; or it might have been the dramatic biography of the author who committed hara-kiri while shouting his defiance of the Self-Defense Forces. In any case, what demolished that young man’s distrust was a single book. That book was like the wooden horse that rendered powerless the massive defenses of Troy. After reading the novel, which depicted in beautiful language the inner feelings of an arsonist who set fire to an ancient temple, the young man gave full vent to his own feelings, which came pouring out. What the youth discovered in that novel, written by a foreign writer who chose a strange way of dying, was his own sense of self that he had never revealed to anyone and had been busily denying. Because the fact of not being understood by other people had become my only real source of pride, I was never confronted by any impulse to express things and make others understand something that I knew. I thought that those things which could be seen by others were not ordained for me. My solitude grew more and more obese, just like a pig.[1]

The young man confessed that as he read those words, he experienced simultaneously the pain and the relief of having pus lanced from a boil. The pain will have originated from the encounter with the monster that was lurking within him, while the relief came from the realization that the monster was not all there was. You cannot change the past by reading, but you can learn to view the past correctly. The moment he discovered that there was someone in the world with the same thoughts as himself, when he felt even faintly the joy of being understood by someone else, the monster that he had been rearing without realizing it vanished completely. The serial arsonist went back to being a typical member of his age group while I discovered a new life as a reading therapist.


If you tell me what kind of books you have been reading, I will be able to tell you who you are. Your reading list is your autobiography and the chronicle of your soul. Forget the gossip that Rousseau, who wrote the classic treatise on education, Emile, sent his own children to an orphanage. Give up as quickly as you can wondering whether the Oxford don Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the daughters of the Dean of Christchurch would have published the book if he had not been a bachelor. What you have to discover by reading is not some kind of ideology disguised as the author’s cleverly hidden private life or message; it is your own self.

I don’t say I’m doing anything wonderful. I have not the least thought of putting on airs to impress you or of telling some stupid joke. I tried some comical stuff, but all I got was a dead pan, so that gag was out.[2] I am merely a guide to reading. Whether you find Heaven or Hell in a book is entirely up to you as the reader. But the quantity of books you had read was incredibly limited for a thirty-year-old adult and your tastes were unclear.[3] In other words you were a book without introduction or table of contents, where there was no sign of anything that might be termed help for the reader. Therefore, when I learned that you were working in the library run by the district office, I felt as though I had been hit on the back of the head.

What book should I recommend to you? If you had been a minor going out on inappropriate dates with a middle-aged man, I might have recommended Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. If your heart had been burning with unrequited love, I might have recommended a novel by the Colombian author, in order to keep you from sighing the following words as you fell asleep: “The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”[4] Suppose you had been feeling disillusioned with the world, a precocious young woman murmuring the pessimistic adage, “We live, not because life is worth living but because it’s not worth killing yourself over,” I would have had you read J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

You were in many ways a difficult book to read. Since you did not know how to express feelings or ideas, you always looked flustered. Worse still, you seemed to have absolutely no idea what kind of person you were or what you wanted. Even when simply confronted with the question whether you wanted coffee or tea to drink, you would hesitate for a while before blurting out, “Whatever you’re drinking,” looking relieved as if you had just cast aside some heavy burden. When I asked your impressions of a book I had recommended, you stared at me with a startled expression before mumbling, “How can I understand something like that?” What did you hope to gain by reading? You asked me hesitantly, “I’m sorry, but is there a book I could read that would teach me how to make a clean break with my boyfriend of the past seven years? How can I end it without shedding messy tears or feeling regret?”


There are things that, once past, never come back. All the things that we label “the first” are like that. Therefore, every first is, without exception, a “last.” The Prague surgeon, an incorrigible philanderer, embracing the unbearable lightness of being says, What happens but once might as well not have happened at all. If we only have one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.[5] If this reminds you of Nietzsche, you can be confident of having reached a considerable level as a reader. If you get to the bottom of the “eternal return,” so much the better. Everything that exists always exists as past. Because the past no longer exists, it exists eternally. Therefore the past is the future of the present. Is a one-time-only life transient and futile? Don’t worry. In the limitless time and space of the cosmos, sometime, somewhere your life will be repeated.

There was a successful real estate broker. Together with his wife and their two children, he was living a life with few wants. One day, he vanished. Money problems? Woman problems? He was squeaky clean. A private detective hired to search for him was able to find him, thanks to a tip about someone who looked like him. The man explained to the detective what had happened. The steel frame of a building under construction collapsed directly in front of him as he was on his way to lunch. The realization that his laboriously constructed life could have been brought to an end by the chance collapse of a building had given him a shock. So he abandoned everything and went away. After traveling here and there, he met a woman, settled down, and married her. He felt satisfied with this new life so he asked the detective to say he had not been able to find him. Yet to the detective’s eyes, the life the man was living now looked almost identical with his previous life.[6]

If you want to become a sagacious reader, you must forget about learning any kind of lessons by reading. What you need as a reader is not enlightenment but empathy. Those who are affected by a tale of obsession or post-traumatic stress disorder will empathize with that man, but you expressed antagonism toward him. You went so far as to get angry, which was just not like you. “He acted badly, abandoning his wife and leaving without a word like that. Not a single word. If he loved her he would never have done such a thing. If another building collapses, he’ll be sure to leave again. He was only looking for an excuse to leave.” All your interest was centered on the fact that the man had suddenly left. By criticizing the man’s action, what you were revealing was an obsession with the past, and what you wished to hide was a fear of breaking up. You were unable to give a clear answer when I asked, “Do you really want to break up with your boyfriend?” You were obviously dithering. I could not help wondering if you had been joking when you told me you consulted me in order to break up with your boyfriend. If so, your problem must not be in your relationship with your boyfriend but in saying you had come to me in order to settle things with your boyfriend. The book titled You was beginning to get interesting. Even then, it was only interesting from a professional point of view.


A hoary misconception common among ordinary readers is the idea that the main protagonist in a story is some kind of alter ego of the author. The harmful effect of this way of reading means that, like school children always keeping an eye on their teacher’s reaction, readers cannot immerse themselves freely in a book because they are always oppressed by the authority of the author. Is this the writer’s personal experience? Is this the writer’s imagination? You were no exception, being so aware of the author’s biographical presence that you were unable to read your own feelings.

As if you thought self-assertion was a sin, you were imprisoning yourself in a naive modesty. The desires and intentions you were unable to translate adequately gradually grew blurred, and turned into a vague suspicion that such things might not exist in the end. What you needed was someone onto whom you could project freely your repressed desires, someone who would accept you as you were so you could respect yourself. After some trial and error with various volumes, I recommended Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. Concerned, I said, “The author’s intentions or real life are not important. Turn the book into something of your own. Let’s pretend the author’s dead.” You replied, nodding, “He drowned himself in a river in 1948, and in a double suicide. Poor guy.” You had your nose plunged in the author’s biography.

It might have been clutching at straws, but I felt that you were reacting strongly. Mine has been a life of much shame. As you read those words you seemed startled. Was it acceptable to reveal one’s inner self so overtly? What had disturbed you, I thought, was not the contents of the confession but the frankness of the confessional form. I reckoned you were feeling ashamed, like someone stealing a glimpse of another person’s private gestures. Then one day, while we were waiting for a train at some subway station, Chungmuro maybe, or Euljiro 3-ga, you compared your feet with the footprints painted on the platform. Probably they were marks from a campaign urging passengers to stand in rows. You were surprised to find that your feet fit exactly into the painted footprints; I was surprised at how old your shoes were.

You, who complained of unnecessary stress caused by unaccustomed things and clung to old shoes because you disliked the stiffness of new ones, were unable to discard the past even when the boyfriend you had been going out with for seven years sent a text message to your closest friend saying, “I told her I’m going to be away this weekend on business. Make time for me.” Even the anger at your lover’s infidelity could not cover up your guilt at having spied on another person’s phone messages. I suppose the fact of having to start the process all over again, meeting a new man, cautiously testing out one another’s past, trying hard to make your presents match, until at last you were reluctantly sharing a future, left you feeling frightened and appalled. You lacked the nerve to give up everything and leave for somewhere new, so the choice you could make, when for the first time in your life you encountered a sentence that shook your very soul, was simply to read this sentence: I can't even guess myself what it must be to live the life of a human being.[7] I too have no idea what living the life of a human being might be like but I can say with confidence that the habit of hobbling around wearing new shoes in order to give yourself a hard time is not a desirable one.


With books that are not easily forgotten, it is usually the early part that matters most. Because of a strange style, because new characters emerge every time you turn a page, because of insistent descriptions, one may give up reading. Growing angry after composing complicated family trees of people with similar names, turned off by tedious descriptions of the geography or customs of the region used as the setting, you may start wondering whether it has not been made into a movie. In the case of a movie, it does not seem to be a problem if many characters appear.

The book You was not the kind to arouse tension from the very first sentence like Albert Camus’s L’etranger. Neither was it a book that overwhelms by its sumptuous binding or exciting illustrations. It was simply a book I started to read casually with no particular expectations. Since the book You did not reveal itself at once, several times I felt like giving up reading. However, once past the first introduction, I grew accustomed to the strange style, the characters of the people grew clear, and the story line began to go somewhere. No longer a book that annoys the reader, you were whispering: Read me. Don’t hesitate; read me.

I read you with precision and care. You were born the fourth daughter in a family where there were already three daughters before you. For your father or grandmother, obsessed with having a son and heir, you were an unwelcome presence. Your mother, considering herself a sinner, refused to breastfeed you even when you cried, hoping to atone for her sin. Once you began to toddle, you were entrusted to your mother’s parents. A child that learns early in life that even crying at the top of its voice is not going to help it get what it wants is bound to live either killing others’ desires or killing its own desires. Either destroy the world or destroy yourself. Since you grew up feeding on the neglect of a mother who identified self-torment with atonement, you naturally chose the second option. But you did not identify fully with the self-destructive protagonist of No Longer Human.

My clients manifest one of two kinds of reaction to a character in a book who is exactly like them. Either they are filled with wonder, like a child that sees itself reflected in a mirror for the first time, or they get upset, like a person who bumps into someone wearing exactly the same dress as one they just bought. Identification gives birth to self-pity, alienation produces self-negation. By your constant self-negation you had tried to prove that you were worthless. I had the impression that your latent fury might have been directed toward your mother, rather than your father. The fact that the protagonist was not a woman but a man might have gotten in the way of your empathy. Despite that, you sympathized with the protagonist for his trouble with his family. It was as though you too wanted to say: I never laughed at home. I reckoned that everything I was related to by blood, everything that was deeply related to me was unfamiliar.[8]

I recommended that you read another work by Osamu Dazai, The Setting Sun. I could not help adding, “The author and the protagonist are different beings. Okay?” “Yes.” “While you are reading the book, you are the author. Okay?” “Yes.” Fortunately, this time the main character was a woman. The novel is about the daughter of a fallen aristocratic family who, after her marriage has failed, tries to gain the love of a writer who would not leave his wife and family for her. You loved the protagonist, who rejects the traditional image of women who accept an unhappy life as their destiny, and resolutely pursues a new morality. “Kazuko’s courage is tremendous, saying she will bear the child of the man she loves and bring it up on her own. I could never even think of doing such a thing.” Interesting. Now you have seen yourself reflected in a character in a book. I began to look forward to sessions with you.


You were fascinated by the idea of a scapegoat. Reproaching Uehara for repudiating both the woman who loved him and his own child, you embraced Kazuko as a scapegoat sacrificed to obsolete morality. A bastard and its mother. We will live in perpetual struggle with the old morality, like the sun. The revolution is far from taking place. It needs more, many more valuable, unfortunate victims. In the present world, the most beautiful thing is a victim.[9] A scapegoat is not something slaughtered because there is sin; there is sin because it is slaughtered. In worshipping the scapegoat they have themselves killed, oppressors gain control of the destructive instincts that might otherwise destroy the community. The secret mechanism of desire to which the ancient Greeks gave the name “catharsis” applies perfectly to reading therapy. In thinking of yourself as the scapegoat of ancient customs you might have been hoping to compensate for a past full of self-negation. In offering up the unhappy past on the altar of oppressive customs, what you were casting off was a sense of shame and what you gained was a sense of moral superiority. At last you have become capable of regarding yourself in a positive light. While you were talking about Kazuko’s decision to bear and raise the bastard child, you once said, “The Talmud says this. If everyone agrees that a person should be punished, let him go. He is undoubtedly innocent.” Referring to one book in order to talk about another! You were on the way to becoming a great reader.

I decided to give you a token reward for earnest reading. When I proposed giving you shoes as a gift, you bristled, “Do I look that pathetic?” It was not the response I had expected. If you had laughed brightly and asked, “How did you know my size?” I would have answered that I enjoy reading you. I would also have smiled, remembering how I had measured the size of the footprints painted on the platform of a crowded subway station, ignoring the stares of passersby. In fact I finally said, “My wife wore them once then stuffed them in the shoe closet; it’s a shame to throw them away. There are lots of shoes she’s worn just a few times then left to rot. She can’t pass in front of a shoe shop without going in.”


             As our sessions went on, signs of a change in you became perceptible. You began to look more cheerful and your habit of averting your eyes as you talked disappeared. Your clothes, which had been invariably black, became more colorful. The day you arrived wearing the shoes I had given you, you were no longer the you who had first come to consult me. You became more dazzling by the day. You had a habit of saying you ought to diet but your buxom figure was dazzling. Full of shining vitality and bursting with self-confidence, your phrases became elegant and beautiful. As if unable to keep to yourself such a splendid transformation, you purchased the latest model of mobile phone, complete with camera. You had inaugurated a new personal home page some time before, but it was boring. You said you had already uploaded several photos and were planning to include photos of bread you had baked. I asked how you knew about baking bread. “I started to attend baking classes some days ago. I mean to learn seriously so I’ve stopped working at the library. My dream is to open a baker’s shop under my own name.” Your face shone as you spoke.

             About the same time, you mentioned a television drama that was all the rage. “A woman like me, none too thin and without any solid background, is playing the main role; she’s awesome, so vigorous! I want to live like that. She’s an expert baker, too. And she’s thirty, just like me, believe it or not. And her name is so unusual.” You made such a fuss, it was as though you had discovered your other self. Since I do not enjoy watching television dramas, I could neither agree with your enthusiasm nor add anything to it. When I said I had never watched that drama, you looked at me as if I were an alien. “The main character’s name is so funny.” Seeing that we could not share opinions of the fascinating drama where the main character had an odd name, you looked regretful while I felt uneasy. When you said you would not be coming again, the reason for my anxiety became clear. I could not simply let you go like that. There were still a lot of books I wanted to recommend. Finished? But this is the point at which the reading of your true self is about to begin in earnest. At a loss, I blurted out, “How about a beer?”

             Was it because you were tipsy from drinking early in the evening? Or because you thought this was our last meeting? You admitted to me that you had never slept with your boyfriend. While there is one category of women lacking in self-assurance who set out to prove their own insignificance by sleeping with any man, there is another category who try to show that they are good for nothing by not having relations with any men. What have you been trying to prove by holding back from having sex with your boyfriend of seven years? And what on earth did you intend by telling me that fact? What you said left me perplexed. “Do you love your boyfriend?” “He’s comfortable. Like an old shoe.” “What did you do with those shoes you used to wear?” I ought not to have asked that. As a reading therapist, my readings ought rightly to be made by analysis, not feelings, but recently I had become increasingly curious about your private life. “I’ve just put them away in the shoe cabinet for now; I don’t know what to do with them. It’s a bother to keep them and a shame to throw them away.” You looked at me. The ball seemed to be in my court. I did not have the heart to tell you to get rid of them. “I understand. These shoes go well with your dress, though.” It was true, the new shoes really suited you. “Why, just look what time it is,” you exclaimed, looking at your wristwatch. You meant it was time for the television drama. I quickly blurted out, “Can’t you watch a repeat broadcast? It seems you can watch programs again on the Internet.”


Nowadays the influence of the author has clearly diminished while the influence of the reader is growing stronger every day. The meaning of a book is determined, not according to the author’s creative ability but by the reader’s tastes. Somebody has said that there are many gaps in books, gaps that the reader has to fill in, and until they are filled in, every book is essentially nothing but an incomplete draft. Worse still, with popular television dramas, it is the viewers who decide what the ending will be. Your preference can make a female lead character who is dying of an incurable disease suddenly recover, or bring back together lovers who have become enemies by some irony of fate.

I wonder what ending you wanted that evening. You could have rushed out of the bar, grabbed a taxi, hurried home and ascertained the fate of the lead characters. From your point of view, that might not have been such a bad ending but for me that was going to be a disappointing one. No. Watching a repeat broadcast of the drama would be better. Readers of this story will surely agree.

Another possible ending has you accepting my request to stay and drinking to the end. The end everyone wants, except you. Even for you, it might not be such a disagreeable ending. If just one person wants something, that remains a dream, but if everyone wants it, then it becomes a reality, surely? Besides, I am both your reading therapist and your reader, so I have the right to choose the ending. So that evening you were unable to watch the drama. On the whole, the atmosphere as we sat drinking will have been pleasant. Let’s say that we shared the kind of talk usually exchanged at private parties when people let down their guard. As the evening wore on, barriers will have gone down lower, discretion weaker. That evening, though we drank a lot, let’s say that nothing went wrong. Then you and I went to a motel.

At this point we need some more details. Details provide the readers with inspiration. Even absurd stories depend on the skill with which the details are provided. What if I were D. H. Lawrence, who so boldly expressed people’s sexual desires? Returning from the powder room, you blew into my ear as you whispered: I want to read you. At that you and I left the bar and found a motel. Or suppose I try the style of hard-boiled Ernest Hemingway? We staggered out of the bar. The city by night was noisy and cunning as a rat. I looked at your sharp lips and had a sudden thought. There’s nothing I can’t do. I grabbed your wrist and began to stride toward a motel. Or what about something in the style of James Joyce, who clings so tenaciously to complex, subtle human psychology? As the fifth taxi in a row refused to take you and went speeding off, I glimpsed your far from despondent expression and started to wonder if you did not have the same idea as I had. When the sixth taxi driver shook his head and drove away on hearing me shout out your destination, I gave up and decided to accept everything gladly. “What about getting some rest first and trying later?” You seemed neither willing nor unwilling as I grasped you by the wrist and headed for an alley lined with small motels. Hoping to disguise the excitement and guilt seething within me, I tightened my grip on your wrist.

When I woke the next morning, thirsty and with my head aching, you were no longer beside me. Were it not for the note lying on the table, I might have doubted whether I had been with you last night.

You were sleeping so soundly I couldn’t wake you. I reckon I can break up with my boyfriend now. Thanks for everything. Look after yourself. BTW there’s a hole in your sock so I bought a new pair in the store next door, you should wear them when you leave.

You had completely removed every trace of yourself, as if erasing the fact that you had ever entered the motel room, but had not been able to do anything about the red stain on the sheet. It was true; you had never slept with your seven-year boyfriend.

After that, I was unable to see you. You dropped out of sight like a child who has gone off to play after finishing some old homework. I longed to meet you again at least once but there was no way I could contact you. Your mobile number was suddenly no longer valid. It seemed clear that you had changed your number when you bought the phone with a camera. There was no address or contact phone number on your reading card. Not having asked for the client’s personal information, the reading card was no help in finding you. So long as you did not visit me or make contact, it looked like it would be difficult to meet you again.


I was finally able to find out about your current situation, thanks entirely to the Internet. You told me you had opened a personal home page and that provided the clue. First I joined the community in which your page was located. Once in, so long as you know a person’s gender, age and name, you can find whoever you are looking for. The fact that your name was one usually given to boys was a great help; there were only two thirty-year-old women with your name who had home pages.

You were busily baking bread, from baguettes and bagels, familiar names, to rosetta and savarin, that I had never even heard of. In the photos, that either you yourself or someone else had taken, you looked full of self-confidence and really happy. You also posted without hesitation notes about your everyday feelings. That would have been unthinkable until just recently. The drama you enjoyed seemed to have changed your life a lot.

Now I have the feeling that I know far more about you than during our sessions. Without phoning or meeting you, I am able to know everythingwhat kind of bread you baked that day, how you are feeling, who you have met, where you have been. So long as you keep uploading photos regularly, I even know what clothes you are wearing, what your face is saying. I am able to read you again. I cannot change your life as your favorite drama did, but that is enough. You are still my book, so even though you are busy baking, watching dramas, meeting some new man, you must not grow lazy when it comes to uploading photos, writing things that give a glimpse of your daily life, changing your background music.

Then I realize I am dreading a sentence, since I am so curious about your present doings.

For the past two weeks there have been no new postings.


[1] Yukio Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. I have deliberately not given page numbers. Since deliberate unkindness is not pleasant, the footnotes that follow may be ignored. It is a matter of digging a well for someone thirsty, so if you are interested in the exact source of a reference, you should get hold of the book and start reading at the first sentence and go on until you find the sentence quoted, until you verify that there really is such a sentence. Compared to the effort involved in seeking out a special bench or path, an island or valley marked on no map, that form the setting for some movie or drama, it’s like swimming with one foot on the bottom, so I hope your reading will set you free.

[2] James M. Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice.

[3] For reference, if I summarize the main contents of the reading card you completed, it would be: Book currently being read: Dieting: Let’s do it right. Book read with deep emotion: Demian. Book you would recommend to someone you care about: The You inside Me Whenever I Shut my Eyes Alone. Book you hope to read in the future: Twenty-seven Reasons why Someone Baking Bread is Beautiful.

[4] Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.

[5] Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

[6] If you want to learn more about this episode, read Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.

[7] Osamu Dazai, No Longer Human.

[8] Annie Ernaux, A Man's Place

[9] Dazai Osamu, The Setting Sun.