Korean books at the SOAS bookshop

Keith Howard of SOAS has just brough out a book on Korean popular music, 1920s to the present day. It covers the same period as Kim Chang-nam’s lecture of a few weeks ago, so obviously I’ve got to buy it. I tried to get my local bookshop to order it, but they said they couldn’t get it delivered from the publishers before they close for summer refurbishment in a couple of day’s time.

So I turned up to SOAS early last Friday before the drumming class, with the aim of picking up a copy at the SOAS bookshop.

As I browsed, I noticed a couple of things. Firstly, that I couldn’t find the Korean books. I found one Korean CD, I found a collection of books on ethnomusicology (including a new edition of a book which my Homer teacher at school used to rave about: Albert Lord’s book on Milman Parry’s work on the transmission of oral epic poetry, which now comes with a CD containing some of Parry’s sound archive. A purchase for the future). But I couldn’t find anything on Korea.

They’ve moved the Korean books. Previously, they were mixed up with all the Japanese books, but in the last couple of months someone has had the sense to give them their own section. Which is both a good and a bad thing. At least when they were in the Japanese section there was the fun of locating the few Korean books (the section is sorted alphabetically by author, so if you’re just browsing and not looking for anything in particular you might find three or four Korean books nestling together and then a couple of feet of Japanese ones before you find the next one). But now with the Korean books having their own section, yes you can find them easily, but you can also see how pitifully few there are. Daunt in Marylebone High Street has more shelf space devoted to Korea than SOAS. SOAS has about 18 inches, about half as much as Daunt. Well, now it only has 15 inches, because I blew more than sixty quid on some impulse buys (this is an expensive hobby).

My purchases did not include Keith Howard’s book: the shop had never heard of it, which I found a bit disappointing. They couldn’t even find it on their computer system. So I just ordered it from Amazon. Another 40 quid gone.

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