For years, Jang Jin Sung traveled within Kim Jong-il’s inner circle. As North Korea’s official poet laureate, he was tasked with “writing epic poems for [the] dictator … and overseeing inter-Korean espionage.” But in 2004, fearing a charge of treason, Sung fled the country, becoming one of the nation’s most high-profile defectors. Recently, Sung – who just published his memoir – spoke with Maclean’s about his life, his escape, and literature.
Actor and humorist Nick Offerman at “By The Book” on choosing George Saunders to write his hypothetical life story: “I think [Saunders] would embarrass me by telling the justifiable truth, but with such élan that I would have to shrug and say, ‘It was worth it.’ If anybody could pull it off, I believe Mr. Saunders would have the tools and talent necessary to render the woodshop traumas of sandpaper and spokeshave, the roller coaster dynamics of a character actor’s life in showbiz, and my relentless penchant for filling a room with noxious gases into a palatable narrative. George — if you’re reading this and you’re up for it — before you dive in, I would just like to say that I think you’re very handsome.”
Recommended Reading: Ted Widmer on the miscellaneous writings of Abraham Lincoln.