The summer time of 2022 peaked early, in June, with a vacation to South Korea for the Seoul International Reserve Reasonable. Founded in 1954, the S.I.B.F. was held completely in individual yet again for the initially time given that the pandemic discouraged huge literary gatherings, or moved them largely online, in 2020. Masked, jet-lagged, and functionally illiterate, I wandered about the displays in Hall A of COEX (the equal of the Javits Middle)—almost two hundred e book-connected enterprises, together with publishers from China, Canada, France, and Germany—and was amazed to be greeted by identify. It was not that my fame had preceded me I was merely a single of incredibly several non-Asians in the place. I was also acknowledged at the booth of my publisher, Maumsanchaek, by Hanbi Na, a younger lady with dyed grey hair, who turned out to be an editor. The booth displayed copies of the Korean translation of my ebook about copy enhancing at The New Yorker. Eustace Tilley is on the cover.
Just before flying to Korea (an eighteen-hour direct flight from New York), I experienced obtained an e-mail from Yumi Hwangbo, the director of Sojeonseolim, a personal library in Seoul, telling me that she experienced acquired a established of sure volumes of The New Yorker and inviting me to pay a visit to. Apart from eating in Koreatown and trying to discover the Korean alphabet on Duolingo, I was not overprepared for Seoul, which is a massive town. Being aware of that the familiar thick black-sure volumes of The New Yorker, which I experienced consulted in libraries and in the magazine’s personal workplaces, were being in the holdings of a library in Seoul gave me an anchor there. At the book fair, I was interviewed about the journal enterprise by a Korean gentleman, by an interpreter, just before a modest crowd that but managed to incorporate a man profoundly, voluptuously asleep in a front-row aisle seat. At a single position, the interviewer claimed that he experienced been this means to talk to me why so a lot of new journals had such shorter everyday living spans, but, since I experienced just pointed out that in 2025 The New Yorker will transform one particular hundred, he experienced made a decision to adjust his line of questioning. My Korean translator, Youthful-Jun Kim, was in the audience, but I did not get to fulfill him. The moment the occasion was above, a younger artist who goes by the title Blanc (Soyeon Na) rushed up with a reward: her edition of a New Yorker go over for an imaginary magazine called The Seouler.
The up coming working day, I satisfied Yumi for the brief trip to Sojeonseolim, in the Gangnam district. Sojeonseolim, Yumi defined, signifies “a forest of books in white brick.” The creating, at first designed as an art gallery, is a stark modern day composition with a white brick façade and large cantilevered squares of glass. It stands out on a road that is or else a jigsaw puzzle of store fronts and vertical symptoms. Yumi led me along a corridor lined on 1 facet by white cabinets, bare except for some ivy curling down from flower packing containers, and up a flight of stairs. The reading place options a pristine selection of books—Korean literature, earth literature in translation, luxurious art catalogues—and, at the middle, an ostrich-dimensions wood sculpture of the goose that laid the golden egg, which also serves as a perch for looking at. There are nooks along the partitions for condition-of-the-artwork designer reading chairs. They have adjustable backs and footrests, like the seats in a cineplex or a dentist’s office environment, as nicely as high-tech lamps. One particular chair was created specifically for viewing a monitor from a snug distance.
An exhibition devoted to Cervantes was up: uncommon editions of “Don Quixote” lay open on a counter, every single tantalizing quantity accompanied by a pair of gloves so that a customer may transform the pages without having leaving a smudge. A new exhibit opens in the tumble to celebrate the centenary of Joyce’s “Ulysses.” The Forest of Textbooks in White Brick was like a cross among the Morgan Library, in Manhattan, and the Heart for Fiction, in Brooklyn, combining a priceless exceptional-ebook selection and a hipster sensibility.
In a courtyard were being two swing sets. “Even one thing for the youngsters!” I mentioned. “No,” Yumi corrected me. “That’s for us.” It turns out that swinging has been well known in Korea for generations, as a variety of gentle work out, specifically for females. Then Yumi opened a door to an internal room devoted to a purely grownup satisfaction, quite well known in Korea: an exquisite smaller bar, with high-finish whiskeys, brandies, and liqueurs arranged on the cabinets powering it.
When the library opened, in February of 2020, Yumi said, it acquired some criticism as a huge expenditure for a thing that catered to only a privileged several. (A minimal membership package deal is a hundred thousand received, or about seventy pounds. A 50 %-day pass, as to a spa, is thirty thousand gained, or about 20 bucks.) She shrugged as if this were being unavoidable. The library was financed by a humanities foundation started out by Wonil Kim, the inventor of an apparatus that enhanced the sport of digital golfing. His corporation, Golfzon, was a massive results in Seoul, wherever it is tricky to get to an genuine golfing study course, and display screen golf took off throughout the world, like karaoke, building Kim a multimillionaire.
While the library is a direct beneficiary of digital golfing, it can also be seen as a late flowering of a cultural heritage: Koreans have historically regarded looking through as a luxurious. Ahead of leaving Seoul, I visited the Key Garden at the Changdeokgung Palace, the place I admired the King’s examining home: a wonderfully preserved centuries-aged pavilion with a see of juniper trees and a lily pond. I’m positive I could make superior development on my Duolingo there.
I had been pondering in which the New Yorker archive in good shape in at Sojeonseolim, and finally Yumi led me to the periodicals part. It was the platonic suitable of a magazine rack, an whole wall showcasing glossy publications from around the globe: Vogues from Italy and Singapore, Granta from the U.K., Monkey from Japan, and, indeed, The New Yorker—a the latest concern bore the subscription label of an address in Springfield Gardens, in Queens. When Yumi was putting together a packet of souvenirs for me—postcards, pencils, bookmarks with the Sojeonseolim imprint—I asked, “Where are the bound volumes of The New Yorker?”
Yumi appeared surprised. “They are in storage,” she stated. ♦