Jonghyun: My mum used to give me pocket money whenever I wrote a book report. I read books and wrote many book reports. There were pocket money missions that mum made and the task with the highest amount of pocket money I could receive was writing a book report. I think it was 2000 won or 3000 won. I couldn’t receive the pocket money if I didn’t write book reports properly even if I did finish reading the book.
Did you enjoy writing book reports?
Jonghyun: I think it was fun. Regardless of how many books I read within one week, if my mum judged that "this book report was written after reading this book accurately" then she gave me pocket money that corresponds with it so I think it was very fun. And then, I got into a habit of reading books.
Do you remember the very first book report you wrote?
Jonghyun: If I remember correctly, it was 『Baekgu the Jindo dog that came back』 (laughs). It was when I was really little right? It’s a memorable book. The books I read were similar to friends of my age. I liked the 『Harry Potter』 series, and there was a program called 「Exclamation Mark」 right? The phrase: "book, book, book. Let’s read books" was popular (from that program) and I read a lot of books that were recommended by them later on. I think I was in middle school during then. Also, I read books that my older sister who is two years older than me read too.
Did you receive a lot of influence from your family on reading books?
Jonghyun: There were a lot of books at home because both my mum and dad like to read. So my house smelt like books a lot. My mum ran a kindergarten and she also used to work at a community office before that so I think I must have received some influence. Books are usually read in a private space. So, I think books are very family-like; because only the people within that space can read it. So I think it’s hard for someone to know how much the other person reads. There are far more cases when the books I read don’t overlap with the books that the other person read. Sometimes there are cases when one concludes that the other person doesn’t read much thinking: "oh, that person didn’t read the book that I read?".
Children often peek around adults’ bookshelves after finishing reading their book. Did you do that too?
Jonghyun: I have books like that too. I felt a sense of rawness when I first read 『Blindness』. It was amazing because it felt like a fantasy novel when I was young but it didn’t feel like a fantasy and I could grasp several contexts when I read it after I got older.
Do you read the same book several times?
Jonghyun: I read, read, read and read again. I read the books I like over again.
What is the book that you read the most number of times?
Jonghyun: Kafka’s 『The Metamorphosis』. This book is somewhat, "outrageous" to express it in modern terms. So I liked it since I was young. I first read this book when I was in primary or middle school and I thought: "they recommend this kind of book to children?". I really like short stories too including Edgar Allan Poe’s 「The Black Cat」. I met the person that I want to be and can admire in 『Demian』. It’s the adults who eventually choose recommended book list for adolescents. So I think (the books I read often) it’s mostly books that are good to read when you become an adult rather than during adolescents.
『The Metamorphosis』 is a book known to have the most impressive first sentence, so did it attract you in an extraordinary way too?
Jonghyun: I imagined it. It’s about how the protagonist "metamorphosed" into a bug when he woke up. I shared a room with my older sister back then and I imagined things like if I were to wake up from this bed and be in the shoes of the novel’s protagonist, would the window look like this way, how would the desk going to be or how would I be able to open the drawer. The first 『The Metamorphosis』 that I read was a large book with illustrations. It was a book with a grotesque black and white pictures. I read many different versions of 『The Metamorphosis』 but I think the book of a large size that I first owned had the greatest feeling.
Which book would you choose if you could jump into the world of a novel for very once?
Jonghyun: There is a part of introducing books in the radio that I host and this was the question that I asked to the guests. I didn’t give an answer as I was the DJ. I quickly played a song because I thought this question would be hard to answer (laughs). I really, really like fantasy genre so I instantly had a thought of going into the books of Bernard Werber’s. I hope I am one of the useless characters, not the protagonist. For example, like a dog that eats brains. It comes out in Bernard’s 『The Ultimate Secret』. I think being in that world is enough even if I wasn’t the protagonist.
Are you also enthusiastic in owning books too?
Jonghyun: Not really. I believe that it’s good to read books carelessly, I actually lose things very easily too.
Then do you leave the books that you took during oversea stages at your hotel room without lingering attachment too?
Jonghyun: If I read it all. I told you that I read the same book several times, right? So, if I want to read the book again I buy a new one every time. And I lose it again.
You’re an excellent reader! (laughs) Then, is the book reading time a rest to you?
Jonghyun: Rest is when I stay absent-mindedly. I think it’s more like a time to agonize than rest. I don’t think reading books, watching movies or listening to music is a rest in a perfect sense. It’s more like a preparation period for a creative activity. I receive a lot of inspiration from the works of other genres like literature.
You’re a musician who writes lyrics and songs. Some poets complimented on the lyrics of "View".
Jonghyun: It was a topic that I really wanted to write about for a long time; coloured hearing phenomenon. It’s a phenomenon where sounds can be seen like colours. It is lyrics about collecting the multisensory imageries of the senses and sixth sense that people have and materializing it.
Your lyrics tickles curiosity, like "Orgel" or "A Gloomy Clock". It feels like the story begins with a certain clue and a certain story keeps going even now.
Jonghyun: Perhaps I have a bad taste but I have put in a lot of wicked stories within the lyrics that seem beautiful in the eyes of others. The lyrics of "Orgel" was written after watching 「House of Wax」. I am interested in things like a character that has lost his mind due to the obsession with love. I have a lot of lyrics that was written after watching movies and books about that kind of thriller or horror. I wanted to create a spooky atmosphere in the lyrics of "Orgel" with a male protagonist as the narrator who keeps restraining the person he loves. I wrote the lyrics for "Obsession" after reading 『Short stories by Edgar Allan Poe』 and that was also about the side of a bad love. I wrote "A Gloomy Clock" when I was gloomy. It was during when I used to always say: "I'm gloomy, I'm gloomy" for anything I did. I think I wanted to give a despicable consolation of "you’re not the only one who’s gloomy".
What does it mean to write lyrics?
Jonghyun: There are many restrictions in the genre of music itself because you have to convey a certain story very well within a short time frame. It’s attractive because of that but it’s also difficult because of that too. The character of the person who sings gives a greater influence as it is short. The hardest thing is writing lyrics to the melody that I didn’t write. There are cases when I have to integrate and take out bits in order to write even when I have a large amount of story that I would like to tell. It’s like when there are only about twenty syllables in a melody and I have more than 50 letters that I want to write. It means I have to catch only the important things.
It’s similar to the process of revising?
Jonghyun: After going through several process of picking out, sometimes the lyrics possesses an impact. In some cases, I end up getting rejected after repeating the work of adding it to here and adding it to there. I have been continuously writing lyrics with this concept and I think there are melodies that can express well than others in the end. Writing lyrics is a peculiar work as that.
You named your first book as 『Skeleton Flower』, and it is also your song too. What was the driving force in releasing your book?
Jonghyun: I think releasing the book was solely for my personal desire. I have a habit of delving into a word and I was into the word "belongingness" that time. Literature and movies explain introduction, development, turn and conclusion of a story; the before and after of a story. But music doesn’t have that. It’s very free. So when I was writing, I wanted my imagination and writing to belong to my music. I wrote wishing that the story of this book influences this music and the story of this music influences this book… I was able to write and release my book not only through the power of the book but also because of the music and the lyrics that I have been writing. So it feels more like collecting the lyrics rather than writing a book.
You named your first book as a novel collection, why did you decide to pick a form of a novel?
Jonghyun: It was easy to express the "belongingness of imagination" that I told about through a form of a novel. The reason why is because there are many ways of expression within the genre of a novel itself. So there are a form of interviews, stories and even letters in the novel that I wrote. I chose novel because I had a personal desire of trying to write these things all at once. But I regretted later on thinking: "ah, it's hard". I regretted thinking I am not a person who could write these kinds of things (laughs). Hemingway once said it. All drafts are rubbish. (laughs) People say music is something great but I know it isn’t something that great as I do music. But arts in the form of writing still remain as an object of huge admiration and fantasy to me. So I hope that writing could be something like music to me too. Fantasies are shattered once we conquer it. I hope this fantasy breaks one day.
Do you listen to music when you read books?
Jonghyun: No, never. I have to read the book only if I want to read it and listen to music only if I want to listen to it.
Do you have a book you’re newly working on?
Jonghyun: I do but I think it’s going to take a very long time. I think it’s really important to leave as time flows by. If I have a bowl of this size, that means I have a work I can publish until I fill up that bowl. If there’s something lacking in the things that filled up that bowl, then I believe I can only be able to publish the work with the bowl that’s filled up only that much. I have been doing so many activities to the extent that I feel like I have used up all the things, even the outside shells, that was in my bowl last year and the year before. It feels like I have even used up the scent that was seeped in that outside shell…. I am waiting for it to be filled up again.
so, littor is a kind of relaunching / reimagining of an old literary magazine that was around for a long time and semi-recently stopped production. this interview is from the first issue - which came out two days ago kst. it's interesting!! an idol featured in a lit mag!! (he also mentioned his dad for the first time in forever. also interesting.)