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[Book Review] The meaning of Ralph Lauren at the worst moment of my life

[Book Review] The meaning of Ralph Lauren at the worst moment of my life

Posted April. 22, 2017 07:02,   

Updated April. 22, 2017 07:07

“It’s not that you are not good enough. You did great, but you just don’t belong here.”

While studying in the U.S., Jong-soo’s advisor told him to leave the school. The 28-year-old had been successful up until that moment. He got drunk at this worst time and left the room in disorder. He smashed the desk with a hammer to open a drawer and he found a wedding invitation card.

The invitation card was from Soo-young. His memory of her went back to a summer 10 years ago, when he was 18. Soo-young visited him all of a sudden and asked to translate a letter in order to send it to Ralph Lauren. The reason why she wanted to send a letter to Ralph Lauren was awfully simple. She wished to be dressed head-to-toe in Ralph Lauren but the brand does not make watches. She wanted to ask the fashion designer to make watches. Since then, Jong-soo began his journey to find the reason. After searching for materials on the matter, Jong-soo visited Joseph Frankel, whom Mr. Lauren raised like his son, neighboring grandmother, resident nurse, and other surrounding people and heard the story of him.

As Jong-soo follows the trail of Ralph Lauren, he has become to pay attention to the stories of ordinary people. Finally, the story of watch did not matter to him anymore. An old memory that accidentally popped up began to change him. He knows now the true meaning of the first sentence, “Dear Ralph Lauren.” When he wrote the words with Soo-young 10 years ago, he did not put much meaning as it was nothing more than an idiomatic expression‎.

In the novel, Ralph Lauren is vividly illustrated as a self-made American designer who left his hometown at night at the age of 11 and went to New York to spend his days by polishing others’ shoes. However, some descriptions of him in the novel are not true. The author’s imagination added up some facts of him. For instance, Ralph Lauren, who was born in 1939, is still alive today but he is depicted to be dead in the novel.

This book is the author’s first full-length novel. She started her literary career in 2009 and has been recognized by winning awards several times at Young Writer’s Award, Hankook Ilbo Literaturpreis, and others. Her novel was published in a series from summer 2015 to spring 2016 at Quarterly Munhakdongne.

Sun-Hee Jang sun10@donga.com