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Category Archives: books

Los Angeles Review of Books: Down with the English Language

Linguistic Life in South Korea once moved me to write a short essay in Korean called “영어에 대한 네 가지 거짓말” or “Four Lies About English.” The first lie, to translate it back into that native language of mine, holds that English speakers can live comfortably in every country in the world; the second, that […]

Korea Blog: Why do Koreans Love Herman Hesse’s Demian Above All Other Western Novels?

Not long before moving from Los Angeles to Seoul, I went book-shopping with my Korean language exchange partner at The Last Bookstore downtown. Browsing the semi-organized upstairs stacks (often literal stacks, at least at that time), we came across a cache of Korean paperbacks from the 1990s. As I tried to find a book there […]

Times Literary Supplement: Michael Breen’s “The Koreans” and “The New Koreans”

The Korean word for South Korea is hanguk, but South Koreans more often refer to it as uri nara, “our country”. The equivalent term in Japanese is mainly used by octogenarian ultraconservatives, but in South Korea everyone says it. They also speak of uri mal, uri eumshik, uri ddang, uri minjok – “our language”, “our […]

Los Angeles Review of Books: Haruki Murakami, “Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa”

Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 opens in the middle of an unusually scored Tokyo traffic jam: “The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast. Janáček’s Sinfonietta — probably not the ideal music to hear in a taxi caught in traffic. The middle-aged driver didn’t seem to be listening very closely, either.” His passenger, a young […]

Korea Blog: Haruki Murakami Has More Books in Korean than He Ever Will in English

Whenever someone has made progress studying a foreign language and asks which author they should try reading in that language, I always recommend the same one: Haruki Murakami. Though perhaps an obvious choice for students of Japanese, his mother tongue and the language in which he writes, his work has now made it into about […]

Axt: 구원과 JM 쿳시의 <엘리자베스 코스텔로>

이번 (타와다 요코 표지가 있는!) 호 Axt (1월/2월, #010)에 내 첫번째 한국어로 쓴 서평은 나온다. 구원과 JM 쿳시의 <엘리자베스 코스텔로>에 대한 것이다. My first print article in Korean, on redemption and J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, in this month’s issue of Axt (January/February 2017, #010) — and one with a Yoko Tawada cover, no less!

Roland Barthes’ Tokyo: “Empire of Signs” Fifty Years Later

Roland Barthes first visited Japan in 1966, not long after the defeated and reconstructed country announced its return to the international community with the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Japan would have hosted its first Olympic Games there in 1940, had World War II not caused the duty to pass to Helsinki. Now, half a century […]

Korea Blog: How Airbnb’s Travel Book Ingeniously Markets to Korea

Stuff Koreans Like, a short-lived imitator of the mid-2000s satirical blog Stuff White People Like, only took ten posts to get to travel essay books. “Usually set in foreign cities (mostly New York or Paris),” writes its author, “they feature soft-focus photographs of café facades and interiors, coupled with inane text with no depth or […]

Korea Blog: Kevin M. Maher’s English-Teaching Expat Novel “No Couches in Korea”

Korea has inspired several volumes of English-language travel writing, even narratives of extended sojourn in or repeat visits to the country over long periods of time, but a full-fledged, high-profile memoir or novel of the expatriate-in-Korea experience has yet to materialize. Kevin M. Maher’s No Couches in Korea, which recounts the experiences of a young […]

콜린의 한국 이야기: 피터캣

나는 거의 매일 글을 쓰러 커피숍에 간다. 일주일마다 두 번 정도 가는 커피숍은 없지만 일주일마다 한 번씩 꼭 가는 커피숍은 몇 군대가 있다. 그 곳들 중에서 일본인 소설가 무라카미 하루키 씨를 테마로 한 피터캣이라는 북카페가 있다. 왜 카페가 그렇게 흔히지 않은 이름을 가지냐면 무라카미 씨 작가가 되시기 전 70년대에 도쿄에 있는 피터캣이라는 재즈바를 운영하셨기 때문이다. […]