The color white in Korea has several of the same traditional meanings as it does in the West — purity and truth being the two most obvious. White also signifies life as Koreans refer to themselves as “White clad folk.” White also represents the cardinal direction of West and the element of metal. Kang goes more in-depth in her tribute to the color.
White is the pure snow and ice, and that can also be a negative — a father lost in the Himalayas, the frost and ice that limit life. White can be the look of death as well as life in the form of breast milk. It can be vast as the Milky Way or as small as the glimmer of metal. Kang seems to bring out the darker side of white. It can hide but not correct imperfections. It is the color of light and also the color of the ashes of a loved one. It can also be the simple joys of a passing cloud or the moon in the sky.
Kang plays a tribute to a color that has well defined traditional meanings in western society. It also has contemporary definitions of plain, “white bread,” the dread of winter. The color is present in all things, and especially in Kang’s view, it has a close association with death. The writing is near poetic at times and haunting at others. The White Book defies categorization and does not sit well in any pigeon hole. Perhaps a bit experimental in concept but executed well in practice as themes run through the collection forming links to some topics and isolating others. An interesting collection of short essays and near poems.