In the new Granta, Adam Johnson writes about the mind-bending experience of traveling to North Korea, an experience which informed his Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son. Perhaps the saddest anecdote — and there are a lot of sad anecdotes — is the one about the North Korean tour guide who couldn’t believe the author didn’t want to buy knockoff goods.
"Maybe in the future I’ll feel compelled to write that kind of specific and current book, but right now I feel that my strength as a fiction writer is my ability to take a step back. I prefer to create a more metaphorical story that people can apply to a variety of situations, personal and political." Electric Literature interviews Kazuo Ishiguro about his most recent novel, The Buried Giant, which our own Lydia Kiesling reviewed here.
The average book tour is filled with indignities, but none may be worse than getting kicked out of a cheap motel, which is exactly what happened to our own Bill Morris on the tour for his latest novel. At The Daily Beast, he recounts the unfortunate events that led to him getting booted from a Motel 6. You could also read his essay on listening to the audiobook of his own novel while on tour.
In random-but-awesome news, Geoff Manaugh's BLDGBLOG reports on a new project by Dutch earth scientists to piece together what they're calling an "atlas of the underworld." Using CT scans to visualize "invisible landscape features—the ghostly remains of entire continents—hidden inside the planet," the project will reveal a surface within earth's surface. See also: our review of Where You Are, an anthology of sixteen alternative maps by a range of artists and writers including Geoff Dyer, Valeria Luiselli, and Leanne Shapton.
In addition to the fact Amazon reviewers and experts agree "in aggregate about the quality of a book," non-professional reviews on Amazon tend to be "more eclectic," "more supportive of debut authors," and less biased in favor of authors with whom they associate than media experts.