When Americans talked or wrote about Kim Jong Il, we often tended to play up his eccentricities: his ridiculous sunglasses, his towering hair, his platform shoes, his interest in movies. The 24 hours since the announcement of Kim’s death have been no exception. Huffington Post quickly published a fashion retrospective on the dictator. (“Dark and oblong or silvery and square, Kim always had on a funky pair of specs.
I am as worldly as the next dreamer, but the scales fell from my eyes, the same ones that keep finding their way back to my eyes, when I opened The New Yorker a few weeks ago and found, in a portfolio of “portraits of power,” Mussolini’s full-page face piggishly staring at me in chicly lurid detail, the very emblem of brutality made aesthetically acceptable. And when I turned the page there was Franco, in full generalissimo kit gazing coldly forward, every hair on his heartless mustache uncannily vivid in a miracle of photographic verisimilitude. Is nobody any longer beyond the pale?
The Thing Around Your Neck By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf, 218 pp., $24.95) In “Jumping Monkey Hill,” the most wicked story in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s new collection, a group of young writers selected from all over Africa have gathered for a workshop at a fancy resort outside Cape Town--”the kind of place,” thinks Ujunwa, the representative Nigerian, “where . . .