Adam Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction Monday, captures the privation and absurdity of life in North Korea in one sentence: "For breakfast, she murdered an onion and served it raw."
The novel is a surreal, feverish look at North Korea under Kim Jong Il. The protagonist Jun Do (a play on "John Doe") grows up in an orphanage, and serves under Kim as a professional kidnapper before deciding to rebel against the state.
In The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy In Retreat, former State Department adviser Vali Nasr describes veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke being all but frozen out by President Obama's inner circle, for whom Nasr believes diplomacy was a "lost art."
Instead of engaging civilians to find political solutions in Afghanistan and beyond, they would look first to the military and intelligence agencies for solutions that were politically popular — that includes getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.