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Category Archives: Uncategorized

Korea Blog: Before There Were Korean TV Dramas, There Was Lee Hyeong-pyo’s Under the Sky of Seoul

More literally translated, the original Korean title of Under the Sky of Seoul (서울의 지붕밑) would be “Under the Roof of Seoul.” Whatever it lacks in mellifluousness, that version hardly seems inapt during the film’s opening sequence, which offers a series of views of the South Korean capital as it looked in the early 1960s. A near-total […]

New Yorker: D.J. Waldie’s Becoming Los Angeles

In 1993, five years after Joan Didion left California for New York, an assignment for The New Yorker brought her back to her home state. Her subject was the Spur Posse, a group of young men in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood, who had received national attention after being accused of sexually assaulting underage girls. The resulting […]

Books on Cities: Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) (2008)

Malcolm Gladwell once described his typical reader as “a 45-year-old guy with three kids who’s an engineer at some company outside of Atlanta.” That same guy, I would wager, is the typical reader of Traffic, which was published between Gladwell’s Blinkand Outliers and adheres to the same mid-2000s publishing trends exemplified by those books. It has the minimalist design, […]

Korea Blog: Stroll through the Real Cities of Korea with YouTube’s Seoul Walker

In recent weeks, Seoul looked about to get back to how it used to be. Or at least it looked about to resemble how it used to be, with an impending relaxation of certain restrictions — on the size of gatherings, on the hours of bars and restaurants — implemented at the height of the […]

Open Culture Posts on Korea

Since 2012 I’ve written about all manner of topics at Open Culture, and you can find a selection of some of my favorite posts over the years in the Open Culture section of my essays page. Sometimes write there about things Korean — South Korea being the country in which I live, and about which I regularly write on the […]

Korea Blog: An Introduction to Outsider Novelist-Essayist Bae Suah

Bae Suah has a dedicated readership in her native South Korea, owing to the unconventional nature of her fiction as well as her passage into literary fame. Over the past half-decade her work has begun to appear in English translation, and in that form it has met with bad reviews: not negative reviews but badly […]

Books on Cities: Owen Hatherley, “Trans-Europe Express: Tours of a Lost Continent” (2018)

The publisher of Owen Hatherley’s Trans-Europe Express: Tours of a Lost Continent sent me a copy addressed to “Colin Marshall, Cities Writer.” Though I’ve never worked under that title, I can hardly reject it; then again, it would seem to apply rather better to Hatherley himself, who despite being only three years older than me has published […]

Books on Cities: Christopher Alexander, “A Pattern Language”

When urban theorists speak of “reading” the city, they usually leave the mechanics of the act to the reader’s imagination. In 1977, Christopher Alexander launched himself high into the urbanist canon by taking the opposite approach, creating with his team at Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Structure a set of verbal tools to make legible, discuss, […]

Korea Blog: Six Expatriate Writers Give Six Views of Seoul in a New Short-Fiction Anthology, “A City of Han”

As a cradle of expatriate literature, Seoul has thus far proven to be no Prague, Mexico City, or Tangier, to say nothing of a Vienna or Paris. That’s not for lack of desire among expatriates themselves: every few months here I get word of the existence of another Westerner-oriented writing workshop, or contacted by another […]

Korea Blog: The Explosively Controversial “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982” Comes Out in English

The tagline of last year’s cautiously anticipated film Kim Jiyoung: Born 1982 (82년생 김지영) promised to tell “your story and mine.” The picture itself delivers only to the extent that you or I happen to be a Korean woman in early middle age, and even then to the extent that our background aligns with the title character’s. But […]