All posts by LARB Blog

Glendale’s Comfort Women Memorial “Controversy” a Symbol of Passive Liberalism

By Steph Cha

Japan — as in the country — has beef with the city of Glendale.

During World War II, the Japanese government forced about 200,000* women and girls into sex slavery to service its Imperial Army, almost all of them taken from Japan’s occupied territories, including, but by no means limited to, Korea. In 2013, Glendale erected a memorial to these comfort women in its Central Park, a bronze statue of a Korean girl sitting next to an empty chair. Continue reading

Awakening, Returning, and Looking Forward: An Interview with Ian Johnson

By Ting Guo

It is March in Beijing. Many local friends tell me that it is the loveliest month here, as one can see, smell, and feel the change of seasons coming after a long smoggy winter: The day is warm and the golden sunlight streams brilliantly on a blue sky — so blue that it seems as if it had been washed by the Dragon King, the deity for water and weather in Chinese folk beliefs. Plum and apricot blossoms and willows glow with life. Indeed, the divide between all the four seasons is more distinct here in the north than in Jiangnan, the southern region by the Yangtze River where I grew up, echoing loudly the 24 solar terms. After the Rain Water (yushui 雨水) reaches Equinox, then it arrives Clear and Bright (qingming 清明), the day when people sweep the graves of their ancestors. Ancient solar terms such as these figure centrally in Ian Johnson’s new book, Souls of China, which includes sections named for them, one of the first things that intrigued me about his approach to the topic of the revival of religion in the PRC. Continue reading

Acquiring Targets

By Evan La Rue

This spring marks the 50th anniversary of a massive U.S. air campaign against the Viet Cong who were sequestered in the jungles and fighting a guerilla war against a technologically superior foe. This chapter in military history and its bitter lesson cries out to be remembered in this era of anxiety over a destabilized Syria and a potential alliance with Russia to fight ISIS from the skies. Continue reading

The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: What about War?

By Charles Montgomery

The LARB Korea Blog is currently featuring selections from The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation, Charles Montgomery’s book-in-progress that attempts to provide a concise history, and understanding, of Korean literature as represented in translation. You can find links to previous selections at the end of the post. Continue reading

Standing with Standing Rock: Rhythm of Relationship

By Brendan Clarke

The following article is the third in a five-part series about the movement at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The mobilization, of people and resources, which was spurred on by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, began an unprecedented convergence of hundreds of Indigenous Tribes, and thousands upon thousands of people. The series, which was originally written as a single piece, offers the reflections of Brendan Clarke, who traveled to Standing Rock from November 19th through December 9th to join in the protection of water, sacred sites, and Indigenous sovereignty. As part of this journey, which was supported by and taken on behalf of many members of his community, Brendan served in many different roles at the camps, ranging from direct action to cleaning dishes and constructing insulated floors. He, along with the small group he traveled with, also created a long-term response fund, which they are currently stewarding. These stories are part of his give-away, his lessons learned, and his gratitude, for his time on the ground. Continue reading

Un-treasured Time: A Conversation with Phil Elverum

By Cypress Marrs

In my mind, Phil Elverum is a man who needs no introduction.

I met Phil probably in 1997. I would have been four or five and he, a teenager, was recording music in K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio, which, as it happened, was across the hall from my artist mother’s studio. As I was scurrying around the building’s dusty halls and trying to make shoes out of construction paper, Phil was recording atmospheric songs on a 16-track about landscape and longing. Continue reading

Encountering Derek Walcott

By Alan Warhaftig

Derek Walcott, born in St. Lucia in the Windward Islands, died on March 17, 2017 at the age of 87. He was the greatest poet produced by the strong literary culture of the Anglophone Caribbean, and is often listed among the greatest poets of the English language of the second half of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and was knighted in 2016. Continue reading

Brevity in the Age of Trump and Twitter

By Jerry Griswold

Donald Trump prefers communicating with the public via Twitter, a messaging service that insists a “tweet” be no longer than 140 characters. (As a way of measuring, you should know that the previous sentence — since spaces and punctuation are included in the count — is exactly 140 characters long.) To his critics, this suggests an inability to have long thoughts or possibly Attention Deficit Disorder. But it is worth noting that brevity, while perhaps unknown in previous presidents, is a genre with a long historical pedigree. Continue reading

Female Trouble

By Tausif Noor

Here is an anecdote that sounds like a disclaimer: a year ago, I went out with a writer, who asked on our first date who I’d been reading. I mentioned Ottessa Moshfegh and Mary Gaitskill. His eyes widened. “Veronica is my favorite novel. I once met Mary at a writing retreat. She is unflinching.” I liken the experience to a reverse Bechdel Test of sorts: is it possible for two men discussing Gaitskill to refer to her in terms that don’t indicate their speakers’ own trepidation? Continue reading