Tag Archives: The Humorless Ladies of Border Control

The Hotel Mongolia

The Humorless Ladies of Border Control

I had a train dinner: paprika chips, a pear, a cucumber, and a beer. The sunset was magnificent as we withdrew from Sükhbaatar through another massive green river valley. Mongolians on horseback and motorbike gathered herds toward yurts that parked like UFOs on the hillsides. Where Russians had overstuffed backyard gardens, Mongolian village houses had paddocks of half an acre or more, marked out with split-rail fences. Where old Russian train stations pumped crackling, martial music through the arrival-platform PAs, as we stepped off the train in Ulaanbaatar, disoriented in the early morning after days on the train, the speaker blasted Namjilyn Norovbanzad, the diva of Mongolian long song (urtiin duu).* The otherwordly vibrato cemented the hallucinatory feeling that we’d stepped out of this metal tube into somewhere quite foreign indeed.

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What We’re Reading – August 2016

The Fire This Time

The Fire This Time edited by Jesmyn Ward: “National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.”

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills: “Magnus Mills’s new novel takes its name from the site of a 1520 meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France, to improve relations between the countries as the Treaty of London deteriorated. It allegorically suggests a number of historical encounters on British soil: the coming of the Vikings, the coming of the Romans. But The Field of the Cloth of Gold sits firmly outside of time, a skillful and surreal fable dealing with ideas of ownership, empire, immigration, charisma, diplomacy, and bureaucracy.”


How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee: “Yongju is an accomplished student from one of North Korea’s most prominent families. Jangmi, on the other hand, has had to fend for herself since childhood, most recently by smuggling goods across the border. Then there is Danny, a Chinese-American teenager whose quirks and precocious intelligence have long made him an outcast in his California high school. These three disparate lives converge when they flee their homes, finding themselves in a small Chinese town just across the river from North Korea.”

Also this month: We’ll talk about Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe, Bad Faith by Theodore Wheeler, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control by Franz Nicolay, and Girl & Flame by Melissa Reddish.

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