LOST IN SEOUL by Michael Stephens


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A carefully limned portrait of a Korean family, by an American son-in-law, author of a classic novel of Irish-American life (Season at Coole, 1972). Stephens married a Korean music student in New York and records his subsequent visits to Korea. The result is more a portrait of this wealthy, powerful, and well-connected family (they live next door to the Presidential Mansion) and the protective cocoon they wrap about the American visitor than a portrait of Korea as a whole. But because Stephens is a relative by marriage and a poet by vocation, he is privy to aspects of Korean life that are denied the usual traveler. Memorable is the visit to the foulmouthed, whiskey-drinking, chain-smoking Grandmother Ho, and her cursing of the fishmonger for supplying bad fish (""This fucking fish has bad eyes""). Shopping with the mother, in-law is deliciously comic; a snowy Christmas game of golf (the gift of orange golf balls comes in handy) with the men in the family leads to a Rabelaisian drunken scene complete with the men licking whiskey off the breasts of the hostesses. Stephens resists the drinking, but Uncle Mo will not be satisfied: ""But you are a great drinker. You are Irish, the Koreans of Europe."" Not a travelogue then, but a flinty poetic rendering of the human side of Korea.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1990
Publisher: Random House