First, at Extremely Graphic, Sadie Mattox uses her always powerful wit to compare the Color of Water to Dawson’s Creek:
“There’s been a lot of heat over why Ehwa seems so…delicate. But the answer is clear. It says so in the book – she’s a flower. Duh. A flower like Joey Potter. Which makes Bongsoon Jen Lindley. Look I dislike the flower analogy as much as the next person but it’s a comforting one. This whole book is about comfort, finding it in the past, finding it in innocence, finding it in love. There’s an entire bad world out there where people are not beautiful flowers and there’s plenty of books written about it.”
She also expresses her feelings about whether or not this scenario makes either series sexist:
“Is Ehwa/Joey an anti-feminist statement? Because of the pining and the naivete and the fact that she seems to be pitted against while on the surface aligned with her much “uglier” friend? No. At least, I don’t think so. Ehwa suffers happily, giddily. She is in no way oppressed by her happiness, beyond that imagined ‘crush” that crushes are named for. She’s not oppressed in her desire to find a loving husband … We want for girls something that we unfairly don’t want for boys. We want them to fall in love for the first time and for it to be real and nice. We want the world to be kind and exciting for them. This isn’t an anti-feminist book, it’s a book about treasuring women.”
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the value of patience, of sometimes waiting for things to progress and acting at the right time instead of always rushing at life and trying to shape things to your will. That’s not a male/female divide, but a youth/maturity one. And that’s one of the qualities I very much appreciate about the book. Others criticize it for telling women to wait and not act — but that ignores the many positive steps these women take, from Ehwa’s mother turning down a financially beneficial marriage for her child, to Ehwa learning to make choices for reasons other than romantic infatuation …
What’s wrong with focusing on the positive and writing a dual love story? That kind of criticism says more about the reader than the work, and that they should stay away from historical romances, especially those told poetically and flowerly. They also tend to ignore the bits that do show how difficult life then was — Ehwa’s mother having to take crude comments made to her face in order to keep her tavern business successful, for example. The books aren’t for everyone, it’s true, but criticizing them for not having the modern politics you wanted to read seems misguided.”
“The graphic and verbal elements … together create a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. Kim Dong Hwa’s exquisitely detailed art places the story firmly in the Korean countryside, where the characters are so often dwarfed by fields and trees that they seem to be just another part of nature. But he also creates rich portraits of people who may be lacking in formal education but have the same hopes and dreams as do people living today and can express those desires poetically.”
Sarah’s reviews are filled with thoughtful insight, as well as detailed praise of Kim Dong Hwa’s artwork.
“Kim Dong Hwa draws in a detailed yet uncluttered style with great feel for the natural setting of his stories. His style of storytelling is unhurried and poetic while also strongly influenced by the cinema: you can almost see the camera setups as his frames shift between objective and subjective points of view and from long shots to close-ups to inserts.”
She also comments on the role of a novelist in expressing “truth.”
“If I have a criticism … it’s that once again a man is telling us what women think and feel. The story doesn’t always ring true for me, but that could be due to cultural differences: I’d be interested to hear what Korean women have to say on the subject. But novelists aren’t required to express universal truths (if such things exist), merely the truth of the characters and situations of their particular novel.”
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As a final note, I’d like to just express my personal appreciation for the widely varied opinions that have been expressed about the series so far. One of the Feast’s greatest strengths, I think, is that it places no restrictions on how its participants approach the work being discussed. As a result, it produces a wide variety of responses, including straightforward reviews, podcasts, roundtables, essays, outright rants, and off-the-cuff remarks. Some come from a very personal place, some aim for a journalist’s strict distance, and most fall somewhere in between. What makes the Feast so rich is the gathering of all these disparate perspectives in one place.
To me, this is the point. I hope that even when discussing a work that evokes particularly strong responses from readers (such as the one we’re discussing now) we can all continue to respect and embrace that.