Tag Archive | 2010

The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot — Basic Books, 2001 — 9780465011025

A fascinating look into North Korea and its gulag system. The author and his family were sent to a concentration camp when he was nine years old, for crimes allegedly committed by his grandfather. For ten years they had to survive, amid “re-education” brainwashing sessions, hard labour (even for children), and the constant threat of starvation and death. After he and his family were released, Kang escaped into northern China, and then made his way to Seoul. He was one of the first North Korean defectors who lived in these camps to write about his experiences.

North Korea is a country that continues to fascinate me. The image on the cover of the book shows children singing a song about the Dear Leader (I think during one of their mass games). Look at the emotion on their faces as they sing him praise. You can’t help but wonder if it’s genuine or they simply know it’s required of them. And it’s hard to say which is more terrifying.

There are a number of interesting documentaries out there, including National Geographic’s Inside North Korea (with Lisa Ling), and the Vice Guide to North Korea, which you can watch legally on its site.


Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

Bryan Lee O’Malley — Oni Press, 2004 — 9781932664089

And so begins the slew of Scott Pilgrim. Great series. I also liked the movie (apart from that weird Bollywood scene), but I liked it for itself alone. They could have made it more faithful to the books.



Kathleen Winter — House of Anansi Press, 2010 — 9780887842368

I tried to read this book twice. Each time I was put off by its sombre tone. I just wasn’t in the mood to read it, despite wanting to find out what happens in the story (intersex child who is raised as a boy in remote Labrador).  I’ll give this book one more shot, but it will probably be a while.

[#32_7.14.10; 11.2.10]

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami — Vintage, 1998 — 9780679775430

This is the first Murakami novel I’ve read. (I’ve previously read After the Quake, a collection of short stories.) This took me quite a while to read and like most people reading Murakami for the first time, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. And now, I’m still not sure what to think. But I do know I enjoyed reading it. I think he’s one of those authors where I’ll have to read several of his books before I can form some sort of opinion.

I hope to read Kafka on the Shore this summer, in preparation for 1Q84, which comes out this fall. We’ll see how that goes.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Stieg Larsson — Viking Canada, 2010 — 9780670069026

Bet you didn’t see this one coming! Third and last (to date) in the series. Another fun read but out of the three, this one could have used more editing. I hope there’s a fourth one day…



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