The author of “The Orphan Master’s Son”, Adam Johnson is Associate Professor of English at Stanford University with emphasis in creative writing . A Whiting Writers’ Award winner, his fiction has appeared in Esquire, Harper’s, Playboy, Paris Review, Granta, Tin House and Best American Short Stories. He is the author of Emporium, a short-story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us, which won a California Book Award.
His novel The Orphan Master’s Son was published in 2012 by Random House and has just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for 2013.
His books have been translated into French, Dutch, Japanese, Catalan, German, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Polish, Portuguese and Serbian.Johnson is a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Johnson was a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow.
He teaches Fiction, Creative Non-Fiction, The Novel Salon and The Graphic Novel.
“The Orphan Master’s Son,” is San Francisco author Adam Johnson’s searing fictionalized account of life in North Korea and has been called the “1984″ of our era garnering critical raves. Find out how Johnson, the director of Stanford University’s acclaimed Creative Writing program, penetrated the veil of secrecy that enshrouds this tragic land to bring the country and its people into blazing light.
Over the past few months, North Korea has hosted a surreal basketball “diplomacy” trip with Dennis Rodman, threatened war and held celebrations with flowers, missiles and music. But very few have an inkling of what the Hermit Kingdom is really like from the inside.
Stanford University professor of English Adam Johnson has made a very ambitious attempt to answer that question in his novel The Orphan Master’s Son, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction earlier this week. After an absence last year, literature buffs breathed a collective sigh of relief to see the award return this year. Previous winners include Nobel laureates Ernest Hemmingway (The Old Man and the Sea), John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) and Toni Morrison (Beloved).
Johnson’s book has won near universal acclaim among critics, being called “exceedingly readable” in a review by The New York Times, which took home several Pulitzers of its own. The Guardian also published a rave review of the book, comparing it to 1984 and Brave New World, in which the writer said that Johnson “managed to capture the atmosphere of this hermit kingdom better than any writer I’ve read.”
Pulling off this level of believability and eliciting such praise was no simple task for Johnson. In the process of writing the book, he made a closely chaperoned visit to the reclusive state and did copious research, devouring history books, propaganda and the testimonials of defectors. “Once I started reading these stories, everything changed,” Johnson said of his investigations during a talk for Stanford’s “How I Write” lecture series. “There was a weight of them in me … They were real people.”
When the research could go no further, Johnson let his mind’s eye take the wheel in a process that he describes as “extending my imagination as far as I trusted and then going back to the sources.”
The result is the story of a young man named Jun Do (a Korean “John Doe”) who lives under the reign of Kim Jong-Il. Throughout Jun’s journey, he finds himself working in the worst possible jobs: tunnel soldier, kidnapper, naval spy, before ultimately ending up in Prison 33.
One passage of the best-selling tome reads: “Inside, I’m assaulted by the evening propaganda broadcasts coming over the apartment’s hardwired loudspeaker. There’s one in every apartment and factory floor in Pyongyang.”
Another: “Real stories like this, human ones, could get you sent to prison, and it didn’t matter what they were about. It didn’t matter if the story was about an old woman or a squid attack—if it diverted emotion from the Dear Leader, it was dangerous.”
Writing a book about a country about which we know so little raises many questions about accurately portraying life under such menacing conditions. Andray Abrahamian, Executive Director of the Choson Exchange, a Singaporean NGO that promotes business development for young North Koreans, has been to the North nine times since 2010. The Choson Exchange team has been a combined total of 25 times since 2009. Yet, he feels that the place remains an enigma.
Through the course of actually working – not only traveling – to the North, “we get a chance to really meet people, talk with them and get to know them,” Abrahamian told The Diplomat. “That is also possible on tours, but is tough if you don’t speak Korean.”
Imperfect they may be, but Abrahamian still vouches for tours to North Korea as a means of getting some grasp on the realities of life in the country.
“There is certainly value to seeing it first hand after reading about it, even if it serves to confirm your preconceptions,” he said. “I can do a ton of research on chocolate cake and be quite certain I know how it tastes, but it isn’t the same kind of knowing as actually eating one.”
Abrahamian continues, “That doesn’t mean that there is one true way of knowing North Korea, but certainly my understanding of North Korea has been greatly enriched since I started going. This doesn’t mean by any stretch I’ve seen the totality of life there, but when and where do you ever?”
Johnson is also keenly aware of this predicament, but was driven to push on despite gaps in his knowledge. The point of a fictional account is not to create a facsimile of life anyway, but to grasp its essence. In other words, there is truth and then there is Truth.
“One of the things I discovered through my research is that most North Koreans can’t tell their story,” Johnson said. “It’s important for others to hear it, though. So I had a sense of mission to speak about the topic.”
He added, “It’s an unverifiable place. But to the fiction writer, the myth, the legend, the fables are all powerful tools to create a psychological portrait.”
-Jonathan DeHart, Asian Life.
” Tim Kang’s quietly underplayed narration offers a grim picture of Jun Do’s life as the Orphan Master’s son, who must be ruthless to survive. Josiah Lee and James Kyson Lee round out the narration, capturing the series of horrific government-sanctioned tasks, the unrelenting drabness of daily life, and the “doublespeak” absurdities of loudspeaker news broadcasts. Watch Tim Kang recording on YouTube.
Gillian Flynn was born in Kansas City Missouri, February 24, 1971, to two community-college professors—her mother taught reading; her father, film. She received a B.A. from University of Kansas and an M.A. from Northwest University.
She was Entertainment Weekly’s TV critic until late in 2009 but now is a full-time novelist, which she says is pretty awesome. Gone Girl is her third book after Dark Places and Sharp Objects. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan and their son.
Flynn’s 2006 debut novel, the literary mystery Sharp Objects, was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards—the first book ever to win multiple Daggers in one year. Flynn’s second novel Dark Places, was a New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite, Weekend TODAY Top Summer Read, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009, and Chicago Tribune Favorite Fiction choice.
The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
Esquire – Every woman you know has read Gone Girl, As a cultural phenomenon, it’s Fifty Shades of Grey for women we and you would actually date, but without the sad sex. It’s written by a woman. The novel’s male protagonist is a recognizable, believable man. He’s got a lot of the faults we recognize in ourselves and a few big flaws we’re happy to have avoided. The female protagonist is a little too pat to be true, and — take heed — you are gonna be annoyed by this fking book by the time you hit the halfway point. You’re going to want to walk away. You’re going to ask your wife/girlfriend what the hell she was talking about. But then something good happens. We wish we could provide a summary so you could just skip to part two, but part one is the price you pay. Really. You can trust us. Read it. There’s no good guy (or girl) in this book, no one to root for, and no happily ever after. How many books can you say that about?
The audio book is well produced with an almost must pairing of narrators,Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne, with the main protagonists. The result is near perfect. This is a must listen for anyone who is attracted to the psychological thriller genre. We rate it 5 Stars.
Listening to audio books can be expensive if you are an avid listener. It was with some surprise that I recently discovered a new provider with a distinctly new offer for audio books. Audiobooks.com now offers over 25,000 audio books with two at a time unlimited downloads for $29.99 per month. You can immediately stream or download any audio book on their site if you are a member. Player apps are available for both IOS and Android devices. This is a great deal for those that listen to more than two books per month.
The Audiobooks.com device app is very usable but not as good as the Audible app. One unexpected benefit is the two audio books at a time applies independently on each of your devices. You can have two audio books downloaded on your iPhone and iPad for example, making it a total of four. This is very useful for family memberships where each person can listen to different books at the same time. The app interface is shown in detail for an iPad below.
Colton Burpo had been sick for less than one week. At first, parents Todd and Sonja, a small town Nebraska pastor and his wife, had chalked the three-year-old’s stomach ache and vomiting to the flu, but as mother, father, and sister sat in the Great Plains Regional Medical Center, the gravity of the situation was becoming all too clear. Things were not looking good. Todd remembers, “I remember the doctor just not saying anything . . . that was a nightmare.” After determining that Colton’s appendix had burst five days earlier, doctors rushed the child into emergency surgery.
After seventeen agonizing days of recovery, Colton returned home. Todd and Sonja were relieved to find Colton an energetic, rambunctious toddler again. The family relaxed and settled into the routine, as everything seemed to return to normal.
Four months later while travelling to visit family in South Dakota, a miracle happened. Colton spontaneously began to speak of his time in the hospital, but instead of drab hospital hallways and dreary waiting rooms, he described something very different, a place of dazzling colors, winged, ageless people, and even Jesus (a bearded man with beautiful eyes, brown hair, and wearing a gem encrusted diadem).
And soon it became apparent that Colton’s dream was more than mere fantasy. Christians assert Colton’s stories coincide with biblical truths beyond a child’s understanding. Colton recalls a brilliant entity of blue energy sending power to his worried father (the Holy Spirit), the angel Gabriel seated to the left of God’s throne, his grandfather’s childhood dog, meeting a miscarried sister, Jesus’ rainbow colored horse.
Heaven is for Real has sold millions of copies, spent 66 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and been featured on “The Today Show,” “Fox & Friends,” “The 700 Club” and CNN. Suprisingly, the book is not limited to Christian outlets but has also enjoyed equal success in major franchise book sellers. Its success has spawned a children’s version, ipad app, and audiobook narrated by professional voice, Dean Gallagher. And the book’s ghostwriter is no less esteemed. Lynn Vincent co-wrote Sarah Palin’s famous memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, and 10 other titles. The audio version is now available for download at several online retailers. Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, Heaven is for Real cannot be recognized as anything short of a miracle.