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Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
The Way Some People Die
Ross Macdonald
Envy of Angels
Matt Wallace
The Fellowship of the Frog
Edgar Wallace
Code of Conduct (The Jani Kilian Chronicles Book 1)
Kristine Smith
A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story - Hyeonseo Lee, David John This is a somewhat difficult book to read, but also quite interesting. The difficulty is with the subject matter, not the writing. The book is well written.

It begins by telling about life in North Korea when the author was growing up. N. Korea is a highly stratified society, stratified in terms of one's perceived loyalty to the ruling Kim family. So, the author and her brother grew up happily enough. Her parents had adequate jobs, and her mother was more than adept at smuggling and bribery so that she could provide some extras for her family. Smuggling and bribery are ok in N. Korea, in their place. The only unforgivable sin, apparently, is disrespect to the Kims.

The author's family lives along the Yalu River. China is just on the other side. People sneak over and back all the time. One day, as a young teenager, the author decides to go across the river for a "visit". She figures she'll be back within a day or so. She's just curious. But, once she's there, she really can't go back without causing severe problems for herself and her family. She has some distant relatives a few miles inland, and they take her in.

Because she's illegal, she can't go out alone. The Chinese authorities are continually on the look out for illegal N. Koreans. When they find them, they return them. So the author spends her days watching TV and learning Mandarin. She gets so good that she can pass, so to speak.

Her relatives try to marry her off to as guy who is so dull that death seems like a better option. So, the author runs off, and finds a way to survive. Well, time goes on, things happen, eventually, she makes it to Seoul and is taken into the S. Korean society. But she misses her mother and brother and contrives to smuggle them into S. Korea. More weird problems.

So, much of the book reads like "The Perils of Pauline", one damn crisis after another. The author manages to keep up her spirits and things work out in the end. Quite fascinating.

Interesting to read about life under the Kims in N. Korea. Basically, they are a family of marginally competent narcissistic autocrats. Life under such folks is pretty awful. And now, we've elected ourselves a narcissistic autocrat. With luck, our vaunted checks and balances will mitigate the damage. We'll see.