The Explorer’s History of Korean Fiction in Translation: Literature Under the Japanese Occupation

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


What’s in a Name?

By Emma Lieber

Psychoanalysis pays attention to names. So too, now, does the American public. Trump is a winner — he has to be, his name says so. Yet John Oliver’s campaign to “Make Donald Drumpf Again,” for one, suggests that we might question the self-appointment of a family that names themselves perpetual victors. Names exist in between the logics of subjective desire and communal code, and in this sense they speak both to an individual’s possibilities and to his limitations. Continue reading


Clunky Beauty — Allison Miller at The Pit

By Daniel Gerwin

Allison Miller does funny things with drips. In “Jaw,” one of seven paintings in her current solo show at The Pit in Los Angeles, drips slide up the canvas in defiance of gravity, while others flow down as expected — clearly, she changes the orientation of her pictures as she works. Miller’s drips are not simply byproducts of her process, as in Franz Kline, for example; but instead, have been carefully preserved. She places tape over the drips she wants to isolate, then removes it only toward the end, preserving rectangles of color around the original drips so that they stand out against the final surface. It’s a goofy send-up of Abstract Expressionist marks with their connotations of emotional urgency and dramatic creativity, but also a canny way of reintroducing the drip as painterly language that escapes the confines of cliché. Continue reading

Leonard Cohen at the Arena in Geneva, 27 October 2008

Blackstars: Life After Death in the Music of 2016

By Derek McCormack

2016 was full of unpredictable trends and occurrences, and the music released this year was no different. In fact, three of this year’s best-selling and acclaimed albums — David Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker – all describe a fascinating new trend. In particular, these albums feature frontmen who have been forced into a powerful confrontation with death – for Bowie and Cohen, their own, and for Cave, that of his 15-year old son, Arthur (and perhaps, by extension, his own). Especially coming from three aging white men, this contemplation of mortality comes at a telling time — just as white male privilege and its collective patriarchal baggage are reentering the political spotlight. Perhaps making sense of this unique musical trend could help us to make greater sense of this tempestuous year. Continue reading


From Diamond Village to Wukan: An Interview with the China Media Project’s David Bandurski

By Jeffrey Wasserstrom

In last week’s post, three regular contributors to the China Blog gave suggestions for books dealing with Chinese themes that would make good holiday gifts.  Next week’s post will take the form of a sequel, offering recommendations for last minute present shopping.  So, it seems fitting that this post, which falls between, is an interview with the author of a very appealing book on China that would also be good to give to someone on your to-buy-for list. Published in other markets by Penguin last year but only recently available in the U.S., it is titled Dragons in Diamond Village: And Other Tales from the Back Alleys of Urbanising China, and it is by the versatile David Bandurski, an independent journalist, documentary filmmaker, and now book author as well. Bandurski joins me here to discuss recent developments in rural-urban unrest and the state of the Chinese media. Continue reading


Subaltern Dreams, Subaltern Realities

The following are excerpts from essays written by graduate students in the History program at California State University, Los Angeles in reaction to the recent Presidential election.

The fall of 2016 was a difficult time to teach, especially as the battle for the American Presidency was being waged before our very eyes. Both faculty and students were on edge parsing the news obsessively, trying to find reasonable solutions among the many speeches that we heard from every side of the political spectrum. My safe haven was my graduate seminar, entitled Russia in World History: Personalities and Events. My students — avid, critical, and passionate — and I read the works of Leo Tolstoy, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among many others. Contrarian and difficult individuals, these original thinkers rejected the notion that any political formation, be it a nation or an empire, could prosper in the long run by violating the rights of others. They claimed that it was impossible to accumulate unlimited material wealth without impoverishing many, and cautioned against building the spaces of modernity at the expense of the environment. We discussed Tolstoy’s ideas about global justice, Goldman’s prescriptions for a transnational and humane economics, and Solzhenitsyn’s arguments for a moral commonwealth. My students brought new insight to these old works and I realized once again how important the past is when dreaming about a better future. We met a week after the elections and my students had used the time in between classes to write these thoughtful, heartfelt, and politically astute essays. Continue reading