Thursday, April 28, 2011


Gaspereau Books' Trala

Biblioasis' new Clark Blaise collection

"They are not doctrinaire"

The Globe and Mail -- which, the last time I was in Canada looked like a flyer for Future Shop -- sounds off about its support for the increasingly unpopular Conservatives; a party top-heavy with extremists, and hedged-in during its terms in office by its minority status, not its inherent centrism.

Unsurprisingly, the Globe's editorial is disinterested in social programs that actually make a difference in people's lives (that is, except for a huffy and insincere remark about "the rapid and exciting change of the country's ethnic and cultural makeup"). Instead, the focus is on a variety of small c-conservative economic issues along with a general praise for that usually foggily defined entity, the free market.

Ironically, it's the free market that is reducing the Globe in print form to something resembling a pamphlet filled with hack ramblings. Yes, it still has good work in it. But that is getting drowned out by shallowly researched, indifferently written material -- what Richard Nash once referred to as "trend pieces". Even its book page is, ahh.... slim on many levels. But presumably a paper in this feeble a state is worried about issues more pressing than this section or that of its, you know -- crook those fingers -- contents. The paper itself is desperately searching for a route to survival.

Will the free market, with its e-gizmos, stressed-out and time-starved workers, and 21st Century entertainments provide the sort of environment in which the Globe can revive itself? But then, according to free market logic, this doesn't matter -- it's just how the pageant of cultural evolution performs this act of the play.

This, then, is the Globe's logic: support for a market system that destroys its own market. Well, that's principle of a sort, all right, though I'm not sure that investors in the paper will be entirely happy with the outcome.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


화장실  이야기...  a sweet example of Korean comics culture.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chinatown by Oh Jung-hee

From the book description of Oh Jung-hee's Chinatown:

Oh Jung Hee deserves major credit for the success of women fiction writers in Korea today. Since her debut in 1968, she has produced a body of short fiction that renders in unsparing detail the effects of a rapidly modernizing society on family life. Her command of language, facility with dialogue, and use of stream-of-consciousness narrative have yielded some of the most memorable stories in modern Korean literature, and her works in translation have earned her comparisons with such accomplished writers as England's Virginia Woolf, America's Joyce Carol Oates, and Canada's Alice Munro. The stories included here represent her work from three decades. "Chinatown" is a coming-of-age story set in the port city of Incheon. 

"Wayfarer" is a poignant account of a woman betrayed by her family and society. "The Release" portrays a mother and daughter united by tragedy.

This is a slim volume published as part of Jipmoondang Publishing's Portable Library of Korean Literature (the books are still selling for 5,000 won -- around a $5 -- a bargain). Each book that I've read in this series is worth reading, and some titles, such as those by Oh, Yun Heun-gil ["장마,", "The Rainy Season"] and Chae Yoon ["의색 눈 사람", "The Grey Snowman"], are particular favourites.

The Oh collection is noteworthy on another level: the comparison with Munro is unsurprising -- one hears the phrase "one of the world's best short story writers" applied to Munro so often that it has taken on the quality of a received idea. Oh, by contrast, remains relatively unknown. But who is in fact the better writer? Oh, like many Koreans from the mid-20th Century, is capable of evoking a depth of feeling I have not experienced from the work of many writers. Is she perhaps underrated? 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pre-True Crime

Levi Asher's interesting account of meeting Daniel Malakov, whose murder has been written about by Janet Malcolm in IPHEGENIA IN FOREST HILLS: ANATOMY OF A MURDER.

Upping the E

Bud Parr on Treesaver.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Support Bradley Manning

Manning is the whistleblower who revealed classified military information on the waging of the war in Iraq. This information included clear evidence of war crimes.

Manning contravened US military law. He also was acting in keeping with the Nuremburg laws; laws that were enshrined at the end of World War Two after the sacrifice of millions of Allied soldiers and civilians. He is currently being held in extraordinary circumstances in the brig, and, effectively, tortured. He is being denied a fair trail.


Corey Redekop on  ROOM, by Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donaghue. I haven't read ROOM myself, though I came across a Korean translation of it on a front-of-store table at a bookstore in Seoul. While I have "gi-cho Hanguka" and managed to divine from the front flap that Donaghue is being marketed internationally simply as Irish, not hyphetated Canadian, I was not able to read passages from the novel itself with fluency. However, I did flip through it, and what struck me about it was that it was comprised of page after page of dialogue. It resembles, in other words, a script. This isn't the first time in recent years I've come across a book like this. Which raises the question, are script-novels now acceptable? Is the novel in the process of changing?