Simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. Joe is a fine writer: his exasperation with being subjected to baseless slurs in the national media after ret...moreSimultaneously hilarious and disturbing. Joe is a fine writer: his exasperation with being subjected to baseless slurs in the national media after returning to Alaska to investigate the Palin phenomenon only really shines through once or twice. (I went and looked a couple of these up and yup, happened pretty much the way he says.)
Joe spends quite a bit of time excoriating the media for giving Sarah Palin the platform that she certainly had done nothing to earn, but even more emphasis here would have been welcome. He also leavens the endless Palin nonsense with moments of his pure love for Alaska's people and land, the words of the Alaskans who have decided that Palin has betrayed them, and a hysterical running joke about being offered guns by nearly everyone he meets socially.
It's obviously a good thing that Palin's bowed out of 2012, but I think the national media will continue to throw up more of these frighteningly ignorant religious candidates as long as it gets good ratings from us poor suckers who care enough to be outraged: cf. Michele Bachmann.(less)
Unlike "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader", this is a book about the experience of ordinary people in North Korea -- defectors -- who have escaped in order to tell about their former lives there. It quotes them extensively, but it isn't a straight oral history. Politics is not covered beyond the general sociopolitical situation.
It's almost unbelievable that North Korea could be stuck fifty years in the past, that it could contain so much suffering, or that the totalitarian state founded by the Kims could have lasted as long as it has. This book makes it excruciatingly clear that for North Korean citizens, it is a dystopia. Gripping, but not for the faint of heart.
Most of the people I met from Chongjin spoke of the large number of bodies scattered around the station and on the trains. A factory worker told me she was riding a train from Kilju to Chongjin in 1997 and realized that a man seated in her carriage was dead. He was a retired army officer and clutched in his rigid fingers his Workers' Party membership papers. She said the other passengers were completely blasé about the corpse. She presumed that the body was removed when the train reached Chongjin Station.
I have a fascination with cults and totalitarianism, and this book goes into exhaustive detail regarding the Juche idea and the Kims. Absolutely worth...moreI have a fascination with cults and totalitarianism, and this book goes into exhaustive detail regarding the Juche idea and the Kims. Absolutely worth a read by anyone interested in 20th century North Korean history.(less)