The Orphan Master’s Son book review

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson


People love to debate the merits of award winning books, and this 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction enters the fray.  This reader loved the book, but it hard to exactly explain why.  The simplest reason was that I wanted to keep reading….I was interested in the story, not so much the plot which is hard to pin down anyway.  This book was creative in an odd, strange, almost magical realism way.  What happens might not actually be able to happen in this world, but then again, the story takes place in North Korea, so maybe anything is possible.

The protagonist is Pak Jun Do, a homonym for “John Doe.”  He grows up in a work camp for orphans called Long Tomorrows, run by his father.  He becomes a soldier, patrolling the murky tunnels under the DMZ, the “demilitarized zone” separating the border between North and South Korea.  Later an electrical radar expert, his job is to listen in, on whom is sometimes unclear.  He is promoted to chief kidnapper, and some of his targets are those he listened in on, and some not.  Exactly who he is kidnapping for is murky, but someone powerful.

He falls in love with Sun Moon, the beautiful wife of the  powerful Commander GA, and then becomes the Commander’s doppelganger, or so it appears, one is never quite sure.  And this is part of the magical mysterious writing of Adam Johnson’s first novel.  This is really a creative tour-de-force, and his knowledge of North Korea and its culture comes largely from his imagination, having visited the country only once.  “We have a duty to tell the stories of others, even if we have to invent them” Johnson stated.

When an American woman, rowing solo around the world, is captured by North Korea, Pak Jun Do attempts to put into action a plan to save her, or is he saving Sun Moon?

Adam Johnson is a professor of creative writing at Stanford University.

Review by Larry





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As the Bard would say…

Ever struggle to find just the right insult that leaves you looking exceptionally educated and intelligent?  Fear not!  We at the UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center have just the book for you: the Shakepeare Insult Generator!  Barry Kraft has collected more than 150,000 insults for you to mix and match from the texts of the bard himself!  Who knew Shakespeare could be such a cautelous foul-mouthed bugbear?  Each tab of this delicious insult generator has the definition of each insult on the back so that you will know exactly what you’re saying while your rival is left scratching their head capocchia.


Shakespeare Insult Generator (9781452127750 – $12.95)

Happy Reading!


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Remember, Remember

Magic Words by Lance Parkin $29.95 (9781781310779)

magic-words-vis-1One of our latest installments to the biography section here at The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center, is the biography of Alan Moore, Magic Words written by Lance Parkin. Magic Words is as uniquely, artistically eccentric as its subject. Parkin’s follows the adventures of one of the most successful and provocative graphic novelist of our time from a scathing editorial directed at his headmaster to his most successful masterpieces Watchmen and V for Vendetta, peppered with disarmingly sarcastic quotes by Moore himself.  As quoted on the back cover: “In Magic Words Lance Parkin has crafted a biography that is insightful, scrupulously fair-minded and often very funny – a considerable achievement given its unrelentingly grim, unreasonable and annoying subject” Alan Moore.

While you’re here pick up a copy of two of Alan Moore’s greatest works, V for Vendetta and Watchmen.

V-Comic-Cover V For Vendetta  $19.99 (9781401208417)

This gritty graphic novel follows a young girl named Evey and the mysterious masked “V” who’s main objective is to over throw an unjust totalitarian government.

Back Cover: “Set in an imagined future England that has given itself over to fascism, this groundbreaking story captures both the suffocating nature of life in an authoritarian police state and the redemptive power of the human spirit which rebels against it.”

Watchmen  $19.99 (9780930289232)

47Watchmen, set in an alternate version of 1985 America on the brink of nuclear war, follows the adventures of two generations of masked heroes, most of whom are devoid of any actual super powers and struggle with the philosophy and ethics of the “justice” they are sworn to uphold.

“To date, Watchmen remains the only graphic novel to win a Hugo Award, and is also the only graphic novel to appear on Time magazine’s 2005 list of ‘the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present’.” (Watchmen wikia)

Happy Reading!


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Tricks for Artists


                Ever get stuck in a project?  Feel like your creativity’s being blocked or don’t know what you should do next?  Nick Bantock has a trick or two just for you in The Trickster’s Hat, a book of tricks and exercises from writing to sketching to art games with dice to get you out of your creative slump.  Some of these exercises work with words, like making up your own limerick, while others have you throw a die and paint a picture with your nose!  And every page features Bantock reminds his readers “Having a wise-joker as our journey’s companion – someone whose very nature embodies misdirection – is an enormous asset, and we need all the help we can get” (4).   This book will definitely inspire and help bring back the playfulness that creativity stems from and help you find new ideas and get out of creative blocks.

As an example I have done exercise 12: Limerick

The UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center

When he was looking for something to read

He thought, Oh, where is the book that I need?

At Storrs Center there’re lots of books

On shelves and in corners and nooks

What a fabulous bookstore indeed!


Title: The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity

Author: Nick Bantock

ISBN: 9780399165023

Price: $20.00

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UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center Updates

We are beginning to shelve. Here Bob S is hard at work.

We are beginning to shelve. Here Bob S is hard at work.

At last we have begun to bring books into our new UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center. Oh how good it feels! Not all of the fixtures are in place yet, so we are putting books out while other work goes on around us. It’s going to take a bit of time but we did not want to wait until everything was ready.

Our goal is to be open the week before Thanksgiving (in time for Small Business Saturday, for which we have many exciting things planned). The bookstore portion will open a few weeks before the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry or Le Petit Marché open but hopefully by mid-December everything will be open.

The store will be light and airy with comfy places for you to sit and lots of wonderful books for your reading pleasure. We look forward to welcoming old and new friends.

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Where Are the Books?


Yes, our General Books Department is relocating to the new downtown as UConn Co-op Bookstore at Storrs Center. We will have a comfy seating area for your browsing pleasure, a dedicated event space that we share with the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, a robust schedule of readings, an expanded children’s area, and lots and lots of good books. Happiness. In addition to the bookstore and BIMP, the café Le Petit Marché will offer a French inspired menu including crepes. Plus UConn ice cream!

We had hoped to be moved by the end of August so that we would be ready to welcome everyone back. Oh how we hoped! Alas, with the vagaries of construction and unforeseen circumstances, we are delayed. We are now expecting to be open and ready for you in October.

Meanwhile, we have a small section of books – bestsellers, Co-op Picks, UConn authors, study guides, and a few children’s books at the front of the store overlooking the patio. This will be our small general books section in the main store.

While we all eagerly await the opening of our new space, we can still get you whatever you want to read. And we are busy working on events. Here is our lineup so far:

UConn Co-op Fall Literary Events 2013

We will add more events as it gets closer to fall. Once our new bookstore opens in October in Storrs Center, we will hold our events there. Exciting! Please check our website or Facebook page (UConn Co-op Where Readers and Authors Meet) for updates. If you would like a book autographed but cannot attend, let us know and we will take care of it for you.



Kevin Cullen on Whitey Bulger

Saturday, September 14, 3:00 – 5:00 pm, Rain date, Sunday September 15, 3:00 – 5:00 pm Church Farm, Ashford

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Kevin Cullen will speak and autograph copies of Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice.  Cullen, who writes for the Boston Globe, was part of the team that exposed Whitey Bulger as an FBI informant in 1988. He has covered national and international news including the conflict in Northern Ireland and the war in the former Yugoslavia. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings he wrote 12 columns in 11 days. Tickets are $25.00 and are available at the Ashford Library and at the door. Friends of the Ashford Library Wine Tasting.

Forrest Pritchard on Farmer’s Markets

Sunday, Sept. 15, 11:00 am – 2:00 pm, Coventry Regional Farmers Market

Forrest Pritchard, author of Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmer’s Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm will be in the barn with us at the Coventry Regional Farmer’s Market. Pritchard is a professional farmer with degrees in English and Geology from William & Mary. His poems have been published in national literary magazines. The CRFM is one of the largest and surely the liveliest farmer’s market in New England.

Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

September 22 – September 28

Like you, we strongly support the First Amendment and the Freedom to Read. Unfortunately, censorship continues to be an issue in this country. We are joining our fellow booksellers, librarians, civil liberties groups and readers like you in a Virtual Read Out which will be posted on YouTube. We invite you to read a few passages from She’s Come Undone or one of your favorite banned books. We will film you and post the video to the Virtual Read Out channel.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb was recently banned by the Department of Corrections. It was an Oprah Pick. It has moved millions of readers. And Wally has tirelessly volunteered his time to work with inmates at York. Fortunately, the DOC’s decision to ban She’s Come Undone was reversed the next day by the governor’s office.  But sadly, censorship is still an  issue in this country. Please join us for the Virtual Read Out.

Festival on the Green Parade

Sunday, September 22, noon, Storrs Center

We may not be open yet, but we will be joining the parade. Watch for your favorite storybook characters!


Celebrating the Publication of Gathered Light

Thurs. Sept. 26, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op (location may change)

Lovingly edited by Lisa and John Sornberger, Gathered Light: The Poetry of Joni Mitchell’s Songs is a dazzling collection of pieces on Joni Mitchell’s iconic songs and the impact they have had on our culture. More than 50 contributors share what Mitchell’s music means to them and to the world of poetry and song. Join us in celebrating the publication of this important book.


A Visit with Christopher Moore

Saturday, October 5, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op

Christopher Moore is the author of eleven novels, including the international bestsellers, Lamb, A Dirty Job and You Suck. His latest novel is Fool, a retelling of King Lear from the perspective of Pocket, the Fool. Before publishing his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping in 1992, he worked as a roofer, a grocery clerk, a hotel night auditor, an insurance broker, a waiter, a photographer, and a rock and roll DJ. Chris has drawn on all of these work experiences to create the characters in his books. When he’s not writing, Chris enjoys ocean kayaking, scuba diving, photography, and sumi-e ink painting. He divides his time between Hawaii and San Francisco.


Steve Straight Poetry Reading

Tues. Oct. 15, 6:00 pm UConn Co-op

Steve Straight is a professor of English and director of the poetry program at Manchester Community College. His most recent book of poetry is The Almanac (Curbstone/Northwestern) of which Billy Collins said that every poem in the collection is “just plain interesting.”  An earlier book of poetry, The Water Carrier (Curbstone), was featured on the nationally syndicated radio program “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.” Co-sponsored with Creative Writing.

Ron Tanner on Fixing Up His Old Victorian

Tuesday, October 15, 7;00 pm, Hartford History Center, HPL

Ron Tanner, author of Animal House to Our House will give a presentation at Hartford Public Library. In the book, he tells the story of the dilapidated Victorian that he and his wife bought and lovingly (though not without mishap) restored. Tanner teaches writing at Loyola University in Baltimore and directs the Marshall Islands Story Project ( He is the author of two books: Kiss Me, Stranger and Bed of Nails, which won both the G.S. Sharat Chandra Award and the Towson Prize for Literature. He has won many other literary prizes as well, including a Faulkner Society gold medal, a Jack Dyer Fiction Prize, and a Pushcart Prize.  Tanner lives in the big Baltimore brownstone featured in this memoir with his wife, Jill, and their many pets. We will join Tanner for a booksigning after his talk.

Howard Mansfield on Dwellings

Thursday, Oct. 17, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op

Howard Mansfield, author of Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter will join us for a talk and reading. Mansfield is the author of seven books of creative nonfiction. The mystery that attracts his attention is that some houses have life– they are home; they are dwellings. Others lack this quality. Dwellings is his lyrical meditation upon what accounts for these differences. Co-sponsored with Creative Writing.

Gregory Frost, Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

Thursday, October 17, 7:00 pm, Stern Room, Austin Bldg.

Gregory Frost is the author of the Shadow Bridge series, Fitch’s Brides, Attack of the Giants and other novels. His short stories have most recently been published in Supernatural Noir and Apex Magazine.  Karen Traviss bestselling author of City of Pearl, called Frost, “one of fantasy’s most challenging thinkers.” The New York Times Book Review said, “Frost is both merciless and artful.”  A pleasure for the casual reader of science fiction and fantasy and the aficionado.


Wally Lamb Launch for We Are Water

Mon. Oct. 21, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore Storrs Center

We are deeply honored to be the venue for the launch of our friend Wally Lamb’s new book We Are Water. We think it is his best yet, and we are huge fans of all his books. This will be an evening to remember.

Opening for Wally

Justin Lamb, New Orleans based spoken word poet and Wally’s son will perform.  He recently released the CD However It Turns Out Is Perfect.

Zack Lamothe, author of Connecticut Lore:Strange, Off Kilter and Full of Surprises will also join us. He will share a few surprising stories.


Wally Lamb is the author of She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much Is True, The Hour I First Believed, Wishin’ and Hopin’ and with contributions from the women of York, Couldn’t Keep It To Myself and I’ll Fly Away. Wally’s awards include the Connecticut Center for the Book Lifetime Achievement Award, The New England Book Award for Fiction and others. She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True were both Oprah Picks.

Wally has many friends and fans. We expect a crowd. Please sign up early. The purchase of a copy of We Are Water from the Co-op admits two. You can purchase in the bookstore or online. Co-sponsored with Creative Writing.

Richard J. King on The Devil’s Cormorant

Thurs. Oct. 24, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore Storrs Center

In his new book, The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History, Richard J. King, senior lecturer in literature of the sea with the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport, looks at this misunderstood and too often maligned bird. Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Voyage of the Narwhal writes, “Before I read this marvelous, idiosyncratic book, I might have said I wasn’t interested in cormorants. Now—I’ll never not be interested.”

Andre Dubus III

Tuesday, October 29, 7:00 pm, Konover

Andre Dubus III grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and is the author of Townie (winner of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award), The Garden of Last Days, House of Sand and Fog (a National Book Award Finalist and Oprah pick), Bluesman, and The Cage Keeper & Other Stories. In Dirty Love, his recently released collection of novellas, he peoples his narratives with a fragile Irish teenager, an Iraqi vet, a bartender who longs to be a famous poet, and other finely wrought characters. Kirkus called Dubus “a dazzling talent.” Sponsored by Creative Writing.


Living and Sustaining A Creative Life: A Discussion

Monday, November 5, noon, UConn Co-op Bookstore Storrs Center

UConn Alum Sharon Butler (MFA) will lead a discussion on Living and Sustaining A Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists by Sharon Louden. An essay by Butler is included in the book. You are welcome to bring your lunch or pick up something from Le Petit Marché in the Co-op.


Roar Reading Series

Monday, November 4, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore Storrs Center.

The Roar Reading Series is an eclectic new monthly reading series curated by Elephant Rock Books. The first Monday of every month join us for a variety of fiction, poetry, CNF, and other works, read by the authors. Reader TBA.


Markham Starr On Barns of Connecticut

Thursday, November 7, 6:30 pm UConn Co-op Bookstore, Storrs Center

Acclaimed photographer and author Markham Starr will give a presentation on his stunning new books Barns of Connecticut and End of the Line: Closing the Last Sardine Cannery in America. In Barns of Connecticut, Starr looks at this too rapidly vanishing icon of our state. The book includes more than one hundred full color photographs, diagrams and historic photos. End of the Line has 210 photos and chronicles the rise and fall of Stinson Seafood in Maine. Starr exhibits work and has won numerous prizes at the Mystic Arts Center, the Slater Memorial Museum and the Norwich Center for the Arts, and a portfolio of his work has appeared in the fine-art black and white magazine Lenswork.

22nd Annual Connecticut Children’s Book Fair

Celebrating Children and the Books They Read

Saturday November 9 and Sunday November 10, 10 am – 5 pm, Rome Ballroom.

Meet your favorite author or illustrator. Have a book signed. Listen to presentations. Two days of fun. We have an especially extraordinary lineup of authors and illustrators this year including Aaron Becker, Jonathan Bean, Nicholas Blechman, Elise Broach, Nick Bruel, Paul Catanese, Elisha Cooper, Diane deGroat, Etienne Delessert, Tomie dePaola, Elizabeth Eulberg, Robie Harris, Jeff Hirsch, Alaya Dawn Johnson, David Johnson, Steven Kellogg, Jarrett Krosoczka, Michaela MacColl, Rita Marshal, Ann Martin, Michael Northrop, Shelley Rotner, David Schwartz, Phoebe Stone, and Mark Teague. Storybook characters include Strega Nona, Spot the Dog, Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Clifford the Big Read Dog. The Connecticut Children’s Book Fair is a project of the UConn Co-op and the UConn Libraries to benefit the Northeast Children’s Literature Collections.

Kate Schapira and Tim Stobierski, Creative Sustenance

Tuesday, November 12, 6:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore, Storrs Center

Kate Schapira writes socially engaged poetry. Her four books include How We Saved the City and most recently The Soft Place. Her work has appeared in many literary journals such as the Denver Quarterly and Drunken Boat. Tim Stobierski is an alumnus of UConn where he worked on the Long River Review for two years. His pieces have appeared in The Hartford Courant, Grey Sparrow, and The Good Men Project. Creative Sustenance is a project of Creative Writing in support of the Covenant Soup Kitchen. Please bring your generous donation.

Hilary Plum and Zach Savich, Fiction and Poetry

Wednesday, November 13, 5:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore, Storrs Center

Hilary Plum’s first novel,They Dragged Them Through the Streets, was published this spring by the Fiction Collective 2. She is the co-director of Clockroot Books and a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her recent prose and criticism have appeared in the Kenyon Review Online, the Collagist, Critical Flame, Requited, DIAGRAM, the Quarterly Conversation and The Rumpus.

Zach Savich is the author of three books of poetry—Full Catastrophe Living, Annulments, and The Firestorm—as well as a chapbook, The Man Who Lost His Head, and a book of creative nonfiction on art and the imagination, Events Film Cannot Withstand. He has won the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Colorado Prize for Poetry, the Omnidawn Chapbook Poetry Prize, and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center’s Open Competition. His poems, essays, and reviews appear widely in journals such as A Public Space, Denver Quarterly, Boston Review, Jellyfish, and Gulf Coast. He serves as book review editor with The Kenyon Review. Savich is a graduate of the MFA programs at the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Co-sponsored with Creative Writing.

Paul Di Filippo Science Fiction Writer

Thursday, November 14, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Storrs Center

Best known for his widely published short stories, Paul D. Filippo will read from his new collection Wikiworld. His novels, which he calls “unclassifiable” include Freaks in a Box, Steampunk Prime, Strange Trades, Fuzzy Dice and more. Publisher’s Weekly writes, “Di Filippo is one of the most talented humorists in contemporary fantasy and science fiction.” 

One Book: One Hartford Featuring Angela Johnson

Saturday, November 23, 2:00 pm, Hartford Public Library

Welcome Angela Johnson to Hartford for A Certain October, this year’s One Book. Johnson, who has been awarded the Coretta Scott King Award three times and was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship is the author of more than 40 books including poetry, picture books and books for young adults. We will join HPL for this special event and have copies of Johnson’s books.

Small Business Saturday

Saturday, November 30, 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, UConn Co-op Storrs Center


Roar Reading Series

Monday, December 2, 7:00 pm, UConn Co-op Bookstore, Storrs Center

The Roar Reading Series is an eclectic new monthly reading series curated by Elephant Rock Books. The first Monday of every month join us for a variety of fiction, poetry, CNF, and other works, read by the authors. Reader TBA.

Robert Thorson on Walden’s Shore

Thursday, December 5, 4:00 pm

Popular professor, geologist, author and columnist, Robert (Thor) Thorson will discuss his newest book Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau’s Nineteenth-Century Science. In Walden’s Shore, Thor shows that Thoreau was deeply interested in the geology of Walden Pond and conducted some remarkable field studies that have been largely overlooked or misunderstood. He was in many ways ahead of his times. Thor himself looks deeply at the geology of the famous kettle pond. As anyone who knows Thor, his passion and excitement for his subject is contagious. He brings rocks to life.

Check our website for additional literary events. We also post on the Daily Digest and on our Facebook page UConn Co-op Where Readers and Authors Meet.

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The End of Vacation

As the dog days of August arrive, it seems as if everyone’s summer vacations are starting to wind down. I, myself, am fresh-back from a week in Maine spent relaxing, reading and visiting bookstores. One of this year’s finds was a little gift shop Imagein Brooklin, ME called Betsy’s Sunflower that has, among great gift items, a small but interesting selection of Maine-specific books and local authors while also hosting occasional author events.  Of course, I left there with a couple of signed editions of works by Brooklin author Peter Behrens. It’s places like this and the UConn Co-op that reaffirm my faith that bookstores are still a vital part of a community providing a place where “readers and authors meet.”

Also, in the Maine woods, I always take time (for a few moments, at least, before being devoured by mosquitoes) to look up and see the millions of stars in the night sky including the milky way. You’ll be hard-pressed to see many stars here, but if you stop into the well-lit UConn Co-op you can easily find a copy of the intriguing, new Co-op Pick,Image The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, by Paul Bogard–a book that laments “how upside down this world where what was once a most common human experience has become most rare. Where a child might grow into adulthood without ever having seen the Milky Way and never feel as though lifted from earth into surrounding stars. Where most of us go into the dark armed not only with ‘a light’ but with so much light that we never know that the dark, too, blooms and sings.”

Also, while most of our trade book inventory is still in storage awaiting completion of our new Storrs Center store, we still have a great selection of Indie Bestsellers (which are always 20% off), Co-op Picks (15% off), local-interest books, children’s books, and many others. You’ll be surprised at the variety we’ve crammed into such a small space. We’ve also just put out a large quantity of bargain books, in which, there are many terrific and unique finds to be had for a pittance.  And, as always, we’d be happy to order most any book that you want and have it for you in a couple days.

So, stop in today. We’re still here and would be glad to help you with books, or anything else for that matter–in addition to books, right now we have a very good selection (though going fast) of UConn Husky insignia wear and other UConn trinkets at clearance prices.

–Bob Smith

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July 30, 2013 · 2:45 am