He was not an ordinary man” goes the story, “in addition to a handsome, manly face and stalwart, he possessed a bright, quick mind, and was naturally clever. A more dutiful son could not be found.”

And just what counts as dutiful in this day and age? Obsessing over your…

All good stories of a certain age start this way, with disappointment… and a sudden, swollen belly — a “warmhearted” husband, a barren wife, and the “pity” of “heaven”.

This is Korea, so things twist early with shamanistic intent. A single flower floats purposefully towards our wife, Mrs. Chang. As…

Dwarfs are uncomfortable little creatures. Nothing fits the way it ought to and everything has a life of its own; no dexterity, no coordination between limbs. A Frankenstein of disproportionate body parts, nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and sinew, all dancing out of tune to impossible, foreign, music.

Before the…

When you walk into the room, everyone is laughing a bit too hard at the not-particularly-funny joke of an older woman you’ve never seen before. Do you:

A) Step in with a really funny joke, definitely much better than the one you just heard. …

There are two ways for this to start. With a pair of yellow dragons, happy in their violence, wounded and bleeding into the soil. Or with a kind-hearted oaf, thick through his limbs, “grizzled” by overwork, and hoping — in between cigarettes — to feel just a little more alive.

A motorcycle takes on different styles for different drivers” writes Kim Young-ha, “Taeju’s driving was like an effortless, dashing cursive”.

The adrenaline and the professional subtleties of the road, cars, speed, noise, engineering, and oily exhilaration, are not new themes for Kim. A near-Freudian repression forcing itself into his mind…

The famine came fast, but it had been quietly building for years. Leeching off their Soviet big brother, and pushing through a series of fast-gain agricultural policies worked… until it suddenly didn’t. As the Soviet Union began to collapse, so did North Korea. …

Everything had already been tried, and most people weren’t listening. Now firmly on the edge — after four years of famine — it seemed like their world was finally coming to its natural end. Potatoes would be a last, clawing attempt at survival.

It started when it all started. Waiting…

“‘He could die,’ I said, fiddling with one of the chewy caramel packs neatly lined up on the display stand.”

“‘Is that so?’”

By far the most interesting thing about this novel, is just how bad it is! …

White bird,

White dog,

White butterfly,

White gulls,

White fur,

White hair,

White pebble,

White bone,

White cabbage,

White grains,

White flakes,

White things,

We have all experimented like this. We have all thought this way about ourselves. Jotting down scribbles of pain and emotion and inner-life — paragraphs, sentences…

Jed Lea-Henry

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