November 8, 2010

Inaugural Blog Tour: The Cleanest Race


More and more, we find ourselves in awe of the depth and variety of places on the internet talking about books. Thus, we’ve decided to take a year-end look at how those places talked about our titles. (Read the kickoff.)The point is to feature not only the titles we proudly published in 2010, but also some of the great writing about those titles from around the internet. In some cases, like today, the writing will only mention our book. In these instances the posts would of course have to be extraordinary.

The book on hand today is B.R. MyersThe Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters. It’s a stunning appraisal of how the North Korean people view themselves, and how this cultural identity shapes their political world view. Myers’ assessment goes against the grain of conventional wisdom on the extremely austere country and his arguments are delivered with clarity and conviction. Not to mention plenty of evidence to support.

So the blog to pair with The Cleanest Race would certainly have to have some heft. Thus we had to go with fellow academic Adam Cathcart‘s blog, Sinologisitical Violincellist. The name alone was a selling point for us. Like Myers, Catchart teaches East Asian studies and his blog is more of a single scholar’s East Asian Journal (capital “J”) than it is a weblog. In any case, Myers book is mentioned flatteringly in Cathcart’s piece entitled “Could North Korea Survive Without The Kim Cult?” Really, the blog is very well maintained, cited and thoroughly accessible to even a lay person.

In the selected piece Cathcart evokes the historical situation of postwar Japan and the odd partnership between Emperor Hirohito and Douglas MacArthur as one potential strategy for Kim Jong Il‘s displacement.

Here’s a clip:

Among the most horrified viewers of Saddam’s demise was, undoubtedly, Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.  Kim has, no doubt, lingered over video footage of dictators strung up by long-repressed mobs like Ceaucesceau in Romania (1989) and Mussolini in Milan.  Moreover, as one whose teenage years were spent in the global swoon of leftist tilt toward Moscow, he was also no doubt aware that the Romanov royal family ended up, well, in pieces.  But, as Bryan Myers argues in The Cleanest Race (a “must-read” for any serious Pyongyangologist), the North Korean regime patterns itself most clearly on the Japanese imperial model. For a man confronting his own morality and the possibility of torrential change after his death like Kim Jong Il, Hirohito remains a salient example in more ways than one, and one who represents continuity.

Now head over and read the whole thing.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.