Inspirational Quotes from Chang-Rae Lee

I don’t believe complete assimilation is possible, at least not for anyone who has an active, open mind. Every step, every entry into the flows of existence can be seen as a beginning, a commencement of a brand new way of seeing oneself in the world. This is the case for everyone.

Chang-Rae Lee

I’m interested in people who find themselves in places, either of their choosing or not, and who are forced to decide how best to live there. That feeling of both citizenship and exile, of always being an expatriate – with all the attendant problems and complications and delight.

Chang-Rae Lee

No place is perfect, but I admire Oahu for its offering of the tropical and the urban, and then its Asian-inflected culture and cuisines.

Chang-Rae Lee

I wanted to write about the Korean War, but I had no entry into it that made the kind of sense it needs to make for a novelist.

Chang-Rae Lee

We know the point of the 2010 Census is to count us, one by one, to tally every last resident, but the massive project of course has more prying, if limited, interests.

Chang-Rae Lee

A novel, even a social realist one, can’t simply be a comprehensive rendering of what is. A novel requires a special angle or approach, whether in structure or language or theme, to justify itself.

Chang-Rae Lee

One of the ready advantages of writing a road or quest story is that it mirrors the experience of writing a novel.

Chang-Rae Lee

For me, that’s always been one of the great charms of the first person: we gain access to a very personal, private kind of music.

Chang-Rae Lee

It’s hard to write a war story without thinking about the ‘Iliad.’ Because the ‘Iliad’ knows everything about war.

Chang-Rae Lee

Part of writing a novel is being willing to leap into the blackness. You have very little idea, really, of what’s going to happen. You have a broad sense, maybe, but it’s this rash leap.

Chang-Rae Lee

Even though I went to Exeter and Yale, and I enjoyed all the trappings of those places, I think at the same time – and maybe it’s because I’m an immigrant kid and not white – there was always this other consciousness; that is, I was conscious of everything that was going on.

Chang-Rae Lee

I remember when I was in art classes, I hated following the assignments. And I would get in trouble for doing something totally different or taking it in a weird direction.

Chang-Rae Lee

My parents – my mother, particularly – were very focused on our succeeding. I loved my parents, and was very grateful to them for everything, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.

Chang-Rae Lee

I think my parents recognised that I’d always wanted to be a writer, and so they didn’t think that this was some idle, faddish wish on my part.

Chang-Rae Lee

We arrived the way most emigrant families did. My father came first, and the rest of us – my mother, my sister and me – followed a year later.

Chang-Rae Lee

I didn’t leave Wall Street because the work was against my nature – I do have a pretty good head for numbers. I left because I had this love for writing.

Chang-Rae Lee

I’ll read pretty much anywhere and anytime, but for a while now, I’ve really enjoyed reading on flights, especially the longer hauls, when I’m unplugged from everything and can completely immerse myself in the world of a book and submit happily to its rhythms, perspectives, ideas.

Chang-Rae Lee

I suppose people might consider me a ‘loose’ reader, as I seem willing to read anything of quality thinking and prose.

Chang-Rae Lee

In my teaching, I try to expose my students to the widest range of aesthetic possibilities, so I’ll offer them stories from Anton Chekhov to Denis Johnson, from Flannery O’Connor to A.M. Homes, and perhaps investigating all that strange variation of beauty has rubbed off on me. Or perhaps that’s why I enjoy teaching literature.

Chang-Rae Lee

Like most people, I’m fascinated by characters who are completely flawed personalities, riven by anguish and doubt, and are psychologically suspect.

Chang-Rae Lee

I can put together a pretty decent meal from whatever happens to be in the refrigerator and the pantry. I like the challenge of this sort of improvisation, the rigor of limitation and sometimes having to take a risk.

Chang-Rae Lee

Unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Wolfe, I don’t like proper dress while working. I like writing in pajama-like clothing, which eases and relaxes me and allows me to connect with the decidedly improper.

Chang-Rae Lee

I’m not the sort of writer who can plan out things. Mostly I have no idea where I’m going.

Chang-Rae Lee

In my other books, things do happen, but they are kind of bookends to the real action, which for me was an exploration of consciousness. Not that I don’t get into the consciousness of the people in ‘The Surrendered,’ but you could say there’s not as much anxiety about it.

Chang-Rae Lee

I have a hard time revising sentences, because I spend an inordinate amount of time on each sentence, and the sentence before it, and the sentence after it.

Chang-Rae Lee

I don’t listen to music while writing; it seems to me I’m trying to make my own kind of music, and to have anything else going on is just noisy interference.

Chang-Rae Lee

I think book clubs should read more contemporary poetry.

Chang-Rae Lee

Before I start my work in the morning, I need to have quickly browsed the entire paper, noting articles that I want to read during lunch.

Chang-Rae Lee

We read and remember certain writers because they offer distinctive voices and perspectives, because they’ve given themselves over completely and passionately to their obsessions while vigorously ignoring everything else.

Chang-Rae Lee

I often think that the prime directive for me as a teacher of writing is akin to that for a physician, which is this: do no harm.

Chang-Rae Lee

As for what’s the most challenging aspect of teaching, it’s convincing younger writers of the importance of reading widely and passionately.

Chang-Rae Lee

My family immigrated when I was 3, and our predecessors inhabited the Korean Peninsula for as long as can be recalled.

Chang-Rae Lee

What’s fun about a dystopian novel is that we can enjoy and be entertained. But that world is only slightly different, right? It’s familiar enough to be recognizable, and skewed enough to give us pause.

Chang-Rae Lee

After college, I was living in New York and wrote furiously, a huge novel that I knew was a failure. I hoped that the book would work, but to be honest, I think I knew it would never work, even as I was finishing it.

Chang-Rae Lee

To be honest, I’m not that much of a reader of Korean fiction, since so little is translated.

Chang-Rae Lee

I don’t like to use writing assignments, exercises. I think too often people get comfortable writing in that vein, but you can’t go on to write a novel comprised of short writing exercises.

Chang-Rae Lee

I write on a computer. On breaks, I’ll make myself green tea. I don’t want something too caffeinated. I guess I don’t believe in chemical enhancement of my writing. Just slight, but nothing crazy.

Chang-Rae Lee

Most people don’t think about race as much as I do. They don’t have to.

Chang-Rae Lee

I don’t feel uncomfortable in America, but every once in a while, I’m reminded that people don’t see me the way I see me. It doesn’t change my life, but it gives me a consciousness about it.

Chang-Rae Lee

We grow up with this idea that we’re all individual agents. We work, make our money, have our place to live and our satellite TV. But whether you like it or not, you need family or community.

Chang-Rae Lee

My writing day follows my family’s day. I get a good few hours in the mornings when the kids are out of the house. And I don’t work at night any more. I like to see my family.

Chang-Rae Lee