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reddeadreademption

Red Dead Reademption

I don't have time to read as much as I'd like anymore, so when I do, I make sure what I'm reading is the best I can find.

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - Guy Delisle

I've been fascinated with North Korea for a while, now, and this book is one of the reasons why. I happened across it in my Friendly Neighborhood Comic Shop, and the simple art style immediately grabbed my attention.  I flipped through it, read a couple of pages, and bought it.

 

Pyongyang: AJINK chronicles animator Guy DeLisle's sojourn in the hermit kingdom as he works on an animated series forced to relocate production due to budgetary constraints. The art is simple and elegant, which is appropriate, given the creator's profession, and the prose reflects and complements the art, with a dry, sometimes understated wit that underscores exactly how alien North Korean culture can seem to outsiders.

 

It's a fast read, which is understandable given the format, but it's an engaging one. DeLisle's sense of humor is readily apparent (he reads Orwell's 1984 while he's there), but while he pokes fun at the bombast of the regime (such as damning the International Friendship Museum with faint praise in the guestbook he signs), he never denigrates the people who must live under it. In fact, when he notices a man filling his shirt with apples from the tree outside his window, he feels a pang of guilt that he's been gaining weight since he arrived (the food is terrible and soaked in oil; a fact verified by Vice.tv's Shane Smith in the Vice Guide to North Korea) while this guy clearly is trying to augment his diet anyway he can.

 

It's also clear that DeLisle only sees what he is allowed to see.  He is shown many monuments and impressive examples of the DPRK's proud Juche' ideals, but he's only allowed to see two subway stations (opulent though they are). When he goes back to the subway on his own, he's surprised to find that the stations he was barred from are just simple subway stations. His excursion causes him a bit of trouble, as he is not actually allowed to travel without his guide and translator. Other cracks in the North Korean facade are readily apparent; while he stays in a luxury high rise hotel, only one floor has electricity and is occupied.

 

Overall, it's a great read, and well worth picking up. If It's a great companion book to Vice.tv's Vice Guide to North Korea. The crew stays at the same hotel as DeLisle, so you'll recognize the poor sea turtle in the lobby.