The summer time of 2022 peaked early, in June, with a excursion to South Korea for the Seoul Global E-book Good. Launched in 1954, the S.I.B.F. was held completely in individual again for the very first time due to the fact the pandemic discouraged huge literary gatherings, or moved them mainly on the web, in 2020. Masked, jet-lagged, and functionally illiterate, I wandered all-around the displays in Hall A of COEX (the equivalent of the Javits Heart)—almost two hundred guide-connected enterprises, including publishers from China, Canada, France, and Germany—and was stunned to be greeted by title. It was not that my fame had preceded me I was only one of pretty several non-Asians in the home. I was also identified at the booth of my publisher, Maumsanchaek, by Hanbi Na, a young lady with dyed grey hair, who turned out to be an editor. The booth exhibited copies of the Korean translation of my ebook about duplicate modifying at The New Yorker. Eustace Tilley is on the include.
Before flying to Korea (an eighteen-hour direct flight from New York), I experienced gained an e-mail from Yumi Hwangbo, the director of Sojeonseolim, a personal library in Seoul, telling me that she experienced acquired a set of sure volumes of The New Yorker and inviting me to stop by. Aside from eating in Koreatown and making an attempt to find out the Korean alphabet on Duolingo, I was not overprepared for Seoul, which is a substantial town. Understanding that the acquainted thick black-bound volumes of The New Yorker, which I experienced consulted in libraries and in the magazine’s personal offices, were in the holdings of a library in Seoul gave me an anchor there. At the book good, I was interviewed about the journal small business by a Korean gentleman, through an interpreter, in advance of a modest group that but managed to include a man profoundly, voluptuously asleep in a front-row aisle seat. At 1 level, the interviewer said that he had been indicating to talk to me why so lots of new journals had such shorter daily life spans, but, since I experienced just talked about that in 2025 The New Yorker will switch one hundred, he had decided to alter his line of questioning. My Korean translator, Younger-Jun Kim, was in the viewers, but I didn’t get to meet him. The second the function was about, a young artist who goes by the identify Blanc (Soyeon Na) rushed up with a reward: her model of a New Yorker go over for an imaginary journal identified as The Seouler.
The up coming day, I fulfilled Yumi for the shorter journey to Sojeonseolim, in the Gangnam district. Sojeonseolim, Yumi stated, suggests “a forest of books in white brick.” The building, originally intended as an art gallery, is a stark fashionable composition with a white brick façade and huge cantilevered squares of glass. It stands out on a street that is in any other case a jigsaw puzzle of store fronts and vertical symptoms. Yumi led me alongside a corridor lined on 1 facet by white shelves, bare other than for some ivy curling down from flower containers, and up a flight of stairs. The studying place attributes a pristine assortment of books—Korean literature, entire world literature in translation, luxurious art catalogues—and, at the centre, an ostrich-measurement wood sculpture of the goose that laid the golden egg, which also serves as a perch for reading. There are nooks alongside the walls for condition-of-the-art designer reading chairs. They have adjustable backs and footrests, like the seats in a cineplex or a dentist’s office environment, as nicely as superior-tech lamps. Just one chair was intended exclusively for viewing a screen from a comfy distance.
An exhibition devoted to Cervantes was up: unusual editions of “Don Quixote” lay open on a counter, each and every tantalizing volume accompanied by a pair of gloves so that a customer may possibly transform the pages with no leaving a smudge. A new show opens in the slide to rejoice the centenary of Joyce’s “Ulysses.” The Forest of Guides in White Brick was like a cross among the Morgan Library, in Manhattan, and the Center for Fiction, in Brooklyn, combining a priceless uncommon-book collection and a hipster sensibility.
In a courtyard had been two swing sets. “Even a thing for the youngsters!” I reported. “No,” Yumi corrected me. “That’s for us.” It turns out that swinging has been well-liked in Korea for generations, as a sort of gentle physical exercise, primarily for ladies. Then Yumi opened a doorway to an interior area devoted to a purely grownup satisfaction, extremely preferred in Korea: an exquisite little bar, with high-conclusion whiskeys, brandies, and liqueurs arranged on the shelves powering it.
When the library opened, in February of 2020, Yumi said, it received some criticism as a big expenditure for one thing that catered to only a privileged couple. (A constrained membership package is a hundred thousand gained, or about seventy bucks. A 50 percent-working day move, as to a spa, is thirty thousand won, or about 20 dollars.) She shrugged as if this were being inevitable. The library was financed via a humanities basis started out by Wonil Kim, the inventor of an equipment that enhanced the activity of virtual golf. His business, Golfzon, was a huge success in Seoul, wherever it is really hard to get to an true golfing system, and screen golf took off all over the world, like karaoke, building Kim a multimillionaire.
Although the library is a direct beneficiary of digital golf, it can also be seen as a late flowering of a cultural heritage: Koreans have historically regarded examining as a luxury. Just before leaving Seoul, I visited the Key Backyard garden at the Changdeokgung Palace, the place I admired the King’s reading through area: a superbly preserved generations-old pavilion with a look at of juniper trees and a lily pond. I’m confident I could make fantastic progress on my Duolingo there.
I had been thinking the place the New Yorker archive in good shape in at Sojeonseolim, and ultimately Yumi led me to the periodicals portion. It was the platonic suitable of a magazine rack, an overall wall showcasing glossy publications from all-around the globe: Vogues from Italy and Singapore, Granta from the U.K., Monkey from Japan, and, indeed, The New Yorker—a modern situation bore the membership label of an handle in Springfield Gardens, in Queens. While Yumi was putting collectively a packet of souvenirs for me—postcards, pencils, bookmarks with the Sojeonseolim imprint—I asked, “Where are the sure volumes of The New Yorker?”
Yumi looked astonished. “They are in storage,” she stated. ♦