There’s an old Korean saying that my mother is fond of repeating: “You have nothing to fear from someone who threatens that he is going to kill you tomorrow.” In other words, if the speaker’s true intention were to kill you, he would have done it already. He would not have told you he was going to do it, unless he’s socially maladjusted or a natural over-sharer. There would be no reference to “tomorrow.” He’s not going to kill you tomorrow; he is not going to kill you at all. The mere fact that he said such a thing makes him an unreliable narrator.
It’s the same with people who tell everyone that they are working on a book.
Nicole Chung’s debut memoir All You Can Ever Knowwill be published inOctober 2018. Her essays and articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Times Magazine, GQ, Longreads, BuzzFeed, and Hazlitt, among many others. She is the editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine and the former managing editor of The Toast. Find her on Twitter: @nicole_soojung
The following novel excerpt appeared, in slightly different form, in "Normal 2014: Collected Works from the First Annual DFW Conference," an anthology published by Lit Fest Press / Festival of Language in 2015.