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Category Archives: books

Times Literary Supplement: Ian Buruma’s “A Tokyo Romance”

Last year, Ian Buruma succeeded Robert Silvers as Editor of the New York Review of Books. The long journey that brought him to that position began in his native Netherlands and passed, for six years from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, through Japan. Though he went there in his early twenties, the period constituted something […]

Los Angeles Review of Books: The Useless French Language and Why We Learn It

JE SUIS la jeune fille: though I’ve never formally studied French, I’ve had that phrase stuck deep in my linguistic consciousness since childhood. So, surely, have most Americans of my generation, hearing it as we all did over and over again for years in the same television commercial. Frequently aired and never once updated, it advertised […]

일기: 이경훈의 <서울은 도시가 아니다>

이경훈의 <서울은 도시가 아니다>가 처음으로 출간되었을 때 한국인 독자들은 책의 제목에 대해서 놀랐던 것 같다. 게다가 서울에 관한 책을 항상 읽고 있는 내가 서울을 아는 서양인 친구에게 그 책에 대해서 얘기하면 그들은 더욱 더 놀랄 것 이다. 그 이유는 많은 서울에 온 서양인이 서울보다 더 도시다운 도시를 본 적이 없기 때문이다. 서울은 미국 대도시보다도 높은 […]

Four Summer Reads About Seoul, in English and Korean: Seoul Urbanism on TBS eFM’s Koreascape

Each month I join Kurt Achin, host of Koreascape on Seoul’s English-language radio station TBS eFM, for an exploration of one of Seoul’s urban spaces. This month, as summer begins, we discuss four recommended books about Seoul, three in English and one in Korean: Janghee Lee’s Seoul’s Historic Walks in Sketches, Jieheerah Yun’s Globalizing Seoul: The City’s Cultural and Urban Change, […]

Korea Blog: How the Seoul Government Turned a Bestselling Feminist Novel Into a Controversial PR Campaign

Few readers in Korea seem to lack an opinion about Kim Ji-young Born 1982 (82년생 김지영), the best-selling novel in the country last year. The first book by Cho Nam-joo, a 39-year-old former television scriptwriter who quit her job after her daughter was born, it tells a story at first engineered for a maximum of normality: the […]

Times Literary Supplement: Michael Vatikiotis’ “Blood and Silk”

“Everyone lies to you in Thailand”, a former Bangkok resident told me at a recent gathering of Asia correspondents. When you ask a local when the next bus arrives, for example, they’re likely to tell you five minutes even if it went out of service years ago. They do it not out of malice towards […]

Korea Blog: Frank Ahrens’s Life-in-Korea Memoir Seoul Man

Dropping into a recent gathering at an expatriate-oriented wine shop in Seoul, I met an American couple quite different from the countrymen I normally encounter here: not only were they born, raised, and married in Texas, they’d come to Korea together for one year and one year only. The engineer husband’s employer, a certain electronics […]

Times Literary Supplement: Suzy Hansen’s “Notes on a Foreign Country”

Not long ago, a curious artefact of American culture suddenly went viral: a short promotional video for a casual dining chain called Sizzler, once one of the most popular in the country. “All across America, a song of freedom rings, a song that’s growin’ stronger every day”, declares its soaring ballad. “That’s the Sizzler way: […]

Korea Blog: Is Simon Winchester’s “Korea” a Classic Travelogue or Cultural Offense?

“This book has a precious little to recommend for itself. It reads more like a white man’s fantasy.” “The vaguely creepy paternalistic narration was extremely off-putting.” “I found his voice to be a little bit too ‘male.’” “It would have been a good book if he had left his commentary out of it.” “I have […]

Korea Blog: French Nobel Laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio’s New Novel of Korea, and the Love of Korea That Inspired It

Like any country afflicted by an inferiority complex, South Korea has shown an avid interest in winning Nobel Prizes, to the point of scrutinizing and attempting to adapt for itself the customs of the nations (and even ethnicities and religions) that have managed to produce large numbers of Nobel laureates. But apart from the 2000 Peace […]