SEVEN SAMURAI SWEPT AWAY IN A RIVER by Jung Young Moon

SEVEN SAMURAI SWEPT AWAY IN A RIVER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Curious roman à clef about an eccentric South Korean author’s sojourn in Texas.

This slender tale, Moon writes, is “a story about Texas, something that I’m writing in the name of a novel but something that is perhaps unnamable.” It’s a novel, yes, but one that builds on word association: A shower of acorns on a November day reminds the narrator of a sculptor who’s working on a statue of a wolf, which turns into a brief history of Wolf brand chili, which touches off a reminiscence of eating chili: “I hoped that the controversy over whether or not to acknowledge chili with beans as chili…would go on being the greatest controversy surrounding chili." Armed with a bucket of stereotypes about Texas, from ten-gallon hats to “many trivial things among which were things that were good to know, although it wouldn’t have mattered if you didn’t know them regardless of whether you weren’t a Texan or you were,” Moon conjures the seven samurai of Akira Kurosawa film fame, who morph into the seven rōnin from Texas who come to the aid of a bandit-besieged village south of the border. The samurai aren’t especially good at swimming, a fact that figures in Moon’s ponderings on Bonnie and Clyde sipping hot chocolate alongside the flood-prone Trinity River, “which perhaps had the most grandiose name of all rivers.” It’s a jumble of legends, travel notes, and odd disquisitions—one in which Moon explains, after a fashion, how he’d previously placed the samurai in a story about a cat that, on its face, had nothing whatever to do with medieval Japan but everything to do with the talismans of the imagination that Moon holds dear. The mysterious exercise indeed touches on the unnamable to the extent that it’s hard to classify—but suffice it to say that it has little to do with the likes of Max Brand and Larry McMurtry.

An oddly entertaining stream of consciousness that flows out over the thirsty Lone Star State.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-941920-85-5
Page count: 164pp
Publisher: Deep Vellum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2019