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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on June 5, 2006
I picked this up with the assumption that it would fall along the same kind of nuanced, interesting analytical lines as say, Joe Sacco or Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels on outsider journeys and conflict. Instead, Delisle simply disappointed me. Where to begin? At times he offers interesting details into the country's ridiculous museums or construction customs, but istead of simply letting the facts speak for themselves, Delisle adds commentary that would best be left out in the 'show, don't tell' rulebook of highschool nonfiction writing.

While noting that his translators and guides would probably be punished severely for saying ANYTHING bad about the Kims, or ANYTHING good about America, he still reserves a mocking, superior attitude towards them during conversations about North Korea's politics. Why mock individuals for conforming when you know what awaits them should they deviate?

Though I am certainly no fan of communism or the personality cult of the Kims, I found myself irritated by his mockery of ordinary people revering the communist leaders. Particularly frustrating is the scene at the Frienship museum when he worries about containing his laughter in front of a crowd kneeling at Kim's feet. What makes these people any different or more brainwashed than overzealous hockey or soccer fans? Does he really think he would behave differently in their situation? His attitude towards North Koreans reminds me of the typical arrogance displayed towards Natives by early colonizers who felt the need to pathologize their every custom. (Examples include his mocking of coworkers enjoying propaganda music or their sad tourist sites)

This is not to say that North Korea is not worth critically examining, but perhaps we might lobby Joe Sacco to make a trip over. Delisle didn't exactly give me the critical analysis I was looking for. Instead of enjoying Coca-cola as a symbol of resistance (nevermind their human rights abuses in Columbia or environmental crimes in India..), Sacco would look at figures such as the translator and render a humanistic protrayal of what made them tick.
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