The summer months of 2022 peaked early, in June, with a trip to South Korea for the Seoul Worldwide Reserve Good. Founded in 1954, the S.I.B.F. was held thoroughly in human being yet again for the to start with time considering the fact that the pandemic discouraged substantial literary gatherings, or moved them mostly on the web, in 2020. Masked, jet-lagged, and functionally illiterate, I wandered all over the displays in Hall A of COEX (the equivalent of the Javits Middle)—almost two hundred ebook-similar enterprises, like publishers from China, Canada, France, and Germany—and was shocked to be greeted by title. It was not that my fame experienced preceded me I was just 1 of incredibly handful of non-Asians in the room. I was also identified at the booth of my publisher, Maumsanchaek, by Hanbi Na, a younger female with dyed gray hair, who turned out to be an editor. The booth shown copies of the Korean translation of my guide about duplicate editing at The New Yorker. Eustace Tilley is on the cover.
Before flying to Korea (an eighteen-hour direct flight from New York), I experienced received an e-mail from Yumi Hwangbo, the director of Sojeonseolim, a private library in Seoul, telling me that she experienced acquired a established of certain volumes of The New Yorker and inviting me to pay a visit to. Aside from dining in Koreatown and trying to understand the Korean alphabet on Duolingo, I was not overprepared for Seoul, which is a big town. Understanding that the familiar thick black-bound volumes of The New Yorker, which I experienced consulted in libraries and in the magazine’s possess places of work, have been in the holdings of a library in Seoul gave me an anchor there. At the reserve reasonable, I was interviewed about the magazine business enterprise by a Korean gentleman, via an interpreter, in advance of a modest group that but managed to contain a guy profoundly, voluptuously asleep in a entrance-row aisle seat. At just one issue, the interviewer stated that he had been that means to talk to me why so quite a few new publications had these shorter lifetime spans, but, for the reason that I experienced just mentioned that in 2025 The New Yorker will change one particular hundred, he had made a decision to modify his line of questioning. My Korean translator, Youthful-Jun Kim, was in the viewers, but I didn’t get to fulfill him. The minute the party was more than, a youthful artist who goes by the identify Blanc (Soyeon Na) rushed up with a gift: her model of a New Yorker address for an imaginary magazine identified as The Seouler.
The following working day, I achieved Yumi for the shorter journey to Sojeonseolim, in the Gangnam district. Sojeonseolim, Yumi discussed, suggests “a forest of publications in white brick.” The constructing, at first intended as an art gallery, is a stark modern structure with a white brick façade and giant cantilevered squares of glass. It stands out on a street that is or else a jigsaw puzzle of store fronts and vertical symptoms. Yumi led me alongside a corridor lined on 1 aspect by white shelves, bare except for some ivy curling down from flower bins, and up a flight of stairs. The reading place functions a pristine selection of books—Korean literature, environment literature in translation, sumptuous artwork catalogues—and, at the center, an ostrich-dimension wooden sculpture of the goose that laid the golden egg, which also serves as a perch for looking at. There are nooks alongside the partitions for condition-of-the-artwork designer examining chairs. They have adjustable backs and footrests, like the seats in a cineplex or a dentist’s office, as effectively as higher-tech lamps. 1 chair was made specially for viewing a display from a comfy distance.
An exhibition devoted to Cervantes was up: unusual editions of “Don Quixote” lay open on a counter, each tantalizing volume accompanied by a pair of gloves so that a visitor might convert the pages without leaving a smudge. A new show opens in the drop to celebrate the centenary of Joyce’s “Ulysses.” The Forest of Guides in White Brick was like a cross involving the Morgan Library, in Manhattan, and the Middle for Fiction, in Brooklyn, combining a priceless unusual-ebook assortment and a hipster sensibility.
In a courtyard ended up two swing sets. “Even some thing for the young children!” I stated. “No,” Yumi corrected me. “That’s for us.” It turns out that swinging has been well-known in Korea for centuries, as a sort of mild exercise, primarily for females. Then Yumi opened a doorway to an internal home devoted to a purely grownup enjoyment, incredibly popular in Korea: an exquisite smaller bar, with substantial-finish whiskeys, brandies, and liqueurs arranged on the cabinets driving it.
When the library opened, in February of 2020, Yumi explained, it obtained some criticism as a significant expenditure for something that catered to only a privileged few. (A constrained membership package deal is a hundred thousand won, or about seventy bucks. A half-day go, as to a spa, is 30 thousand won, or about twenty bucks.) She shrugged as if this had been inescapable. The library was financed through a humanities basis started off by Wonil Kim, the inventor of an equipment that improved the recreation of virtual golf. His firm, Golfzon, was a big success in Seoul, where by it is tricky to get to an true golfing training course, and display screen golfing took off around the world, like karaoke, creating Kim a multimillionaire.
Whilst the library is a direct beneficiary of digital golfing, it can also be observed as a late flowering of a cultural heritage: Koreans have historically regarded reading as a luxury. In advance of leaving Seoul, I visited the Mystery Back garden at the Changdeokgung Palace, in which I admired the King’s studying room: a wonderfully preserved hundreds of years-outdated pavilion with a look at of juniper trees and a lily pond. I’m positive I could make good progress on my Duolingo there.
I had been questioning where by the New Yorker archive healthy in at Sojeonseolim, and eventually Yumi led me to the periodicals part. It was the platonic ideal of a magazine rack, an total wall showcasing glossy publications from close to the world: Vogues from Italy and Singapore, Granta from the U.K., Monkey from Japan, and, sure, The New Yorker—a modern issue bore the subscription label of an tackle in Springfield Gardens, in Queens. While Yumi was placing jointly a packet of souvenirs for me—postcards, pencils, bookmarks with the Sojeonseolim imprint—I requested, “Where are the certain volumes of The New Yorker?”
Yumi appeared surprised. “They are in storage,” she said. ♦