"kimchee-scented kleenex fiction"? oh no you didn't.

A whole bunch of people have sent me the link to this recent Fresh Air book review of the bestselling Korean novel Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin: 'Please Look After Mom': A Guilt Trip To The Big City.

What's noteworthy is not the book -- which, while not my cup of tea, looks okay to me -- but the review itself, in which Maureen Corrigan seems only able to approach with bewildered cultural condescension. For instance:
If there's a literary genre in Korean that translates into "manipulative sob sister melodrama," Please Look After Mom is surely its reigning queen. I'm mystified as to why this guilt-laden morality tale has become such a sensation in Korea and why a literary house like Knopf would embrace it. (Although, as women are the biggest audience for literary fiction, Please Look After Mom must be anticipated to be a book club hit in this country.) But, why wallow in cross-cultural self-pity, ladies?

Having just read Patti Smith's award-winning memoir, Just Kids, for the second time, I'd urge you to pick her empowering female adventure tale about getting lost in the city instead. Smith will get your book club on its feet and pumping its collective fists in the air, rather than knocking back the wine and reaching for the cheap consolations of kimchee-scented Kleenex fiction.
Corrigan obviously didn't like the book, which is fine, but her aggressive contempt -- particularly in that final and completely unnecessary jab about "kimchee-scented Kleenex fiction" -- is remarkably ignorant and culturally insensitive. It's actually worse when you hear the review as it aired on the radio. Listen to it, and read an excerpt from the actual novel, here.

angry archive