BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Nine Cloud Dream by Kim Man-jung, translated with an introduction and notes by Heinz Insu Fenkl [in Booklist]

The warning comes early: “New readers are advised that this introduction makes certain details of the plot explicit.” For audiences adamant about discovering narratives autonomously, skipping the first track is recommended – but only with the intention of returning to the beginning upon book’s end. Professor/translator/writer Fenkl’s introduction rewards with historical, sociopolitical, and literary contextual enhancements to “one of the most beloved masterpieces of Korean literature.”

Given such lofty standing, elegantly-voiced Shih – his almost-growl especially adaptable for swashbuckling adventures – is a consummate choice to narrate this 17th-century classic attributed to royal court intellectual Kim Man-jung (1637-1692), who found inspiration in the intrigue he witnessed.

While the Taiwanese American Shih should have had (easily available) Korean pronunciation instruction, the actor energetically assumes the story-within-a-story of a promising young Buddhist monk caught cavorting with faeries. His punishment is to be incarnated as Shao-Yu, an impoverished commoner who reaches unparalleled intellectual and political heights, not to mention the eight stupendous women with whom he – uh – engages. “Punishment” seems quite the misnomer, but multiple (real-)life lessons will reveal otherwise.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, January 1, 2020

Readers: Adult

Published: 2019 (United States)

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