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Category Archives: books

Times Literary Supplement: Matt Alt, “Pure Invention: How Japan’s Pop Culture Conquered the World”

After overseeing the postwar occupation of Japan, General Douglas MacArthur made a blunt assessment of the cultural and emotional state of the defeated people. “If the Anglo-Saxon was, say, 45 years of age in his development, in the sciences, the arts, divinity, culture, the Germans were quite as mature,” said the former Supreme Commander of […]

Korea Blog: Revisiting the Late Kevin O’Rourke’s “My Korea,” a Curious Memoir of a Land that Gets in the Blood

Western expatriates in Asia often see themselves as having missed out on their adopted homeland’s golden age. I arrived recently, just under five years ago, and have since heard much about how I really should’ve been here at the time of the World Cup, if not in the 1990s. Some time ago I met an […]

Books on Cities: Ben Wilson, “Metropolis: A History of the City, Humankind’s Greatest Invention” (2020)

I wonder: have I ever described the city as “humankind’s greatest invention”? It’s not impossible, given the proclamation’s tempting combination of boldness and obviousness — which it would retain if applied to, say, language, another of my own interests. Reading Ben Wilson’s Metropolis: A History of Humankind’s Greatest Invention, I realized its subtitle sounded familiar because […]

Korea Blog: Frances Cha’s “If I Had Your Face,” The Great Korean Plastic Surgery Novel

When first learning Korean in Los Angeles, I went to a Koreatown bookstore in search of simple reading material. There I picked up the first volume in a long-running a series of illustrated books for children called Happy World (행복한 세상). Its short, fable-like stories turned out to be united only by what struck me as an […]

Los Angeles Review of Books: What Do They Know of English, Who Only English Know?

Until age 24 I lived, as many Americans do, without leaving my native continent. I first applied for a passport out of the humiliating need to go to no farther than Canada, whose entry process had recently become more stringent. But not long thereafter I went genuinely abroad, taking a 25th-birthday trip with my dad […]

Korea Blog: British Denmark Expat Michael Booth Takes the Measure of Korea in “Three Tigers, One Mountain”

Michael Booth’s Three Tigers, One Mountain isn’t a book about Korea, but in a sense it contains a book about Korea. Subtitled A Journey through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan, it takes on an entire region in the form of a travelogue driven by one question: “Why can’t the nations of east […]

Korea Blog: Introducing Kim Hoon, Korea’s Greatest Living Novelist Never Published in English

On a pedestal high above downtown Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square stands Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Generation after generation of Korean schoolchildren have studied the 16th-century naval commander’s unblemished record of victory against the invading Japanese, and four centuries after his death Yi remains the unrivaled symbol of a small, impoverished nation’s will to resist predation by the […]

일기: 전상인, <공간으로 세상 읽기>

나는 나 자신을 주로 도시에 대한 관심이 많은 사람으로 묘사한다. 그 것은 백 퍼센트 사실이긴 하지만 내가 관심 있는 것은 도시 뿐만 아니라 건축물과 길거리를 포함한 동네를 비롯하여 지하철과 같은 도시를 형성하는 여러 가지 시설물이다. 엄밀히 말하자면 나는 도시보다 도시를 구성하는 공간에 관심이 더 간다. 전상인 교수님의 <공간으로 세상 읽기>를 읽고 나서 나의 그러한 관심을 […]

Korea Blog: The Making of a Korean Monster in Kim Sagwa’s Bloody High-School Novel “Mina”

I often wonder why Korean kids almost never kill their parents. Not, of course, that I think Korean kids should kill their parents, but given all the stories one hears of the psychologically debilitating pressures faced by the youth in this country, and then how much of the time the agents of that pressure are […]

일기: 김종현의 <한번 까불어 보겠습니다>

내가 서울에 처음 왔을 때 인상적인 것들 중 하나는 어느 동네에서도 경험할 수 있는 풍부한 독립 책방 문화였다. 미국 도시들에는 뉴욕의 더 스트랜드나 포틀랜드의 파월즈처럼 아주 좋은 서점들이 있긴 하지만 그 것들은 엄밀히 말하자면 책방이 아니라 대규모 가게들이다. 내가 다니는 서울 책방들의 기능은 책을 파는 것 뿐만 아니라 문화적인 공간을 열기도 한다. 집에서 가장 가까운 […]