My review of Friend: A Novel from North Korea is up on Full Stop.
This novel was written in 1988 by Paek Nam-nyong, a writer living in North Korea and a member of April 15 Literary Production Unit, a regime-sanctioned group of writers tasked with chronicling the saga of the Kim dynasty. The novel has attracted attention outside of the DPRK for years, even spawning a play in South Korea. The novel was made into a television series in North Korea. It is, perhaps, the most well-known modern work of fiction from that country.
My review of the novel for Full Stop explores how something can be at once a work of art and a piece of propaganda. I also ask what contrasting Friend with western media depictions of North Korea can tell us about propaganda, both in DPRK and the USA.
“The People’s Porn: A History of Handmade Pornography in America” by Lisa Z. Sigel offers several chapters, each with a focus on a different aspect of folk art, outsider art, and handmade crafts as they reflect sexuality. It’s my first review of a work of history, but I’ve always been extremely fascinated by material culture. My brother is an antique collector and dealer, so I’ve spent some time thinking about provenance and how history is embedded in artifacts. Honestly, I expected this book to be a bit funnier and more lighthearted than what I encountered, but it was more interesting for being deeper than what I envisioned.
My first review with Full Stop is of Farooq Ahmed’s novel, Kansastan (7.13 Books; 2019). The novel recreates Civil War-era Kansas as Muslim society, with most of the action taking place in and around a rural mosque. They’re going to war with Missouri. The narrator is the most narcissistic scrub of all time and the world is out to humiliate him again and again in hilarious fashion. The novel isn’t like anything I’ve read before.