Vaseline Buddha by Jung Young Moon
translated by Yewon Jung
Deep Vellum Publishing, 2016; 226 pp
Reviewed by Juliana Amir
Vaseline Buddha, translated from Korean, promised to be different and it delivered. This thin book boasted that it never set out to engage the reader in a plot. No, it wanted to break the idea of plot, and so it rebelled.
If I summed Moon’s novel into one line, it would be this: a series of daydreams stitched into an ongoing meditative contemplation. This is the book for people who don’t have time for books. The one you can enjoy a few pages of, stick in a drawer for a week, or a month, and pick up without missing a beat.
The narrator is at times acutely aware that a book is being composed and reflects:
“Perhaps I seek to write something that’s fit to be read on a rock in a forest you come to on a daily walk, or in a café on a street where you’re traveling...they will be stories that are not quite narratives, stories that cannot be narratives.”
If you’re looking for a page-turner, don’t stop here. If you’re looking for a book that demands little effort and ponders everything from sheep, to cartoonists, to old ladies in the park—you have found your novel. I was not spellbound by Vaseline Buddha, but it’s a unique collection of wandering moments that I could appreciate in the midst of a hectic semester.