What Are You Reading?Mir -- Thursday, August 08, 2002 -- 10:48:21 PM
I have been caught looking over people's shoulders at the books they are reading on the bus, and bus stops. I love to know what people are reading right now. Here is a place to share. Fiction, Biographies, non-Fiction. Please dish.This thread is tagged: books, hobby
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I am finally reading "The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves And Why It Matters," and wow. All I can say at this point is that it does matter, if for no other reason than it is important to evaluate North Korea on its own terms, as well as ours. Mirror imaging is the cardinal sin in intelligence analysis, but I have never seen it more robustly applied than to the Hermit Kingdom. It could well be that Myers is all wrong, but at least he is willing to approach his analysis from a different place.
Myers' book is the best on Asia I've read in several years. He took what ought to be the dry subject of narrow specialists -- North Korean propaganda -- and used it to change my entire approach to how I thought about the country. Rare is the book on Asia that does that for me, but this one did. Myers transformed my views on a subject I thought I knew something about. He's utterly convincing in describing how North Korea was heavily influenced by the Japanese imperial system, borrowing motifs and imagery that are much different from anything found in Confucianism and Communism.
Myers is a man of catholic interests. His A Reader's Manifesto made him a marked man in some literary circles and he recently took a stab at the foodies (which I haven't read), making himself even more enemies.
Yeah, I'm reading another book of essays about NK, written by a Russian who studied there in the late 60s/early 70s, and the Russian talks about about Confucianism in North Korea. I'm glad I read Myers' book first. The Russian book is still worth reading, though.
I'm now on book four or five about North Korea and it's interesting to see how many of the same anecdotes keep popping up. I know there's a huge dearth of material, so it makes sense, but if I never read again about "If three brave Korean soldiers kill a total of thirty imperialist Yankee warmongering jackals, and each brave Korean soldier kills the same number of jackals, how many imperialist Yankee warmongering jackals does each brave Korean soldier kill?" that will be fine with me.
I am also increasingly interested in the way in which every part of the state urges North Koreans to transfer their loyalty to certain individuals in the Kim family. Not the country, not all of the Kim family, but a very limited number of individuals within it. I'm meeting with a North Korea expert in the next few weeks about some of these issues and I'm interested to get his take on that.
I enjoyed Myers' stab at foodies, but do keep in mind that he is a nut-job vegan.
Have any of the other books you've read even mentioned the possibility of the Japanese occupation greatly influencing North Korea's state ideology?
I loved the photos, illustrations, and images in Myers' book.
Hirohito on white horse:
Kim Il-sung on a white horse:
I had no idea that Reader's Manifesto was written by the same man. I've LIVED by that thing since I graduated from college, in 2000, calmly rejecting any "literary" works under discussion. I will get the NK book straightaway--NK is such an interesting example of the communist category. As far as I know, their racial angle has never been replicated in the communist world.
And Gorky Park is uncanny. I picked it up two years ago at a thrift store, and subsequently watched the film. I dreamed about that story--I thought the atmosphere was amazingly creepy.
I have been on a reading binge lately. "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood was an excellent read. There are three stories---a novel within a novel within, and a twist at the end, although the twist becomes increasingly obvious so I would not say it is a surprise. Worth a read if you see it in the library.
"West of Here" really sucked. I did not quite throw it across the room, but I wondered how it ever got published.
And finally, "A Covert Affair" which was kind of a mess, but fascinating because it pokes into a corner of WWII history that you don't get in survey classes. Paul Child and Julia McWilliams were OSS agents stationed in Ceylon and later in China during WWII. The book briefly documents the formation of the OSS and then goes into detail about its operations in China, and covers the McCarthy era and the impact on the State Dep't. "China hands" and OSS agents who were arguing that there was no way the old colonial order would be re-imposed after the war, and got themselves branded as Commies for their trouble.
I learned a lot of detail about the Asian theater that gets glossed over in history books, and the Paul/Julia friendship/romance gives the book a lively approach to what is tough sledding--research and analysis and later the anti-Communist paranoia. Definitely worth a trip to the library!
I read "The Blind Assassin" because my son had it for his English class. I like Margaret Atwood, but I was pretty eh about this one. Agreed, the twist was pretty obvious if even I could anticipate it.
Reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." The biology is very well-presented, very clear and understandable. The story about the family is heartbreaking and fascinating both.
Thank You For Killing My Novel
"The New York Times panned my book, then had to correct the review to fix all their errors. So why am I not angry?" by Patrick Somerville
Damara, I really enjoyed the Henrietta Lacks book. It was a quick read.
I re-read Marge Piercy's He, She and It recently, and convinced my book group to read it too (well, it was on our list) so we'll be talking about it this weekend.
Now I'm reading Steven Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From, which is interesting and well-written.
Kahneman's stuff is on my Want This list. I've enjoyed the one or two TED talks of his I've seen, too.
Kteemac, that was very funny.
I didn't read the Henrietta Lacks book because I found every interview with the author I heard & saw to be infuriating. She just repeatedly alludes to these completely insane ideas that A)Lacks and/or her family's plight is somehow worsened by science having taken one miniscule sample from her body and expanded that into a cell line used in mammalian cell culture experimentation, and B) that she and/or her family are somehow owed something they have not received for that. That they've been somehow misused by faceless hordes of scientists. And that, simply, is an awful lie and misrepresentation.
Eh, the book is actually very even-handed. There is no mistaking that there is a cultural clash between the Lackses, who are woefully ignorant, and the John Hopkins milieu, but I didn't get any indication that the author takes sides. She is very sympathetic to the family but she is equally admiring of the scientists although scathing where there are less than noble characters among them.
She has a lot of admiration for George Gey, whose lab cultured the cells, and who gave them away to anyone who asked.
I thought the author did a pretty good job of showing how the Lacks family came by their ignorance of science and wistful/magical-thinking attachment to her cells and the idea that they were owed something.
Oh, Damara, I meant to say that I read your Other Miss Bennett (?) book, too, and really enjoyed it (and I generally don't have a taste for the genre)!
Cool, Alyssa! Thanks so much. And just so search engines won't be confused:
The Unexpected Miss Bennet
I agree re the Lackses' woeful misunderstanding. I don't think addressing that sympathetically in any way undermines the gift to science and humanity the cells became.
Has anyone read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? I've been pushing it relentlessly on all of my irl friends. A wife disappears on her 5th anniversary, and of course the husband is suspected. The story is full of twists and is one of those "don't bother me, I'm at a really good part" books the whole way through.