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by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
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Pictures of a place most Americans know very little about. The stories are very sad, but not hopelessly so, and very well written.
An interesting collection of stories about various people's lives in Thailand. The writing's solid and the personas of the characters fairly vivid. That being said, my enjoyment was limited by the fact that it's a bleak and largely miserable set of stories, with only scarce moments of happiness. All the characters are depicted trapped in harsh circumstances and eking limited pleasure out of meagre opportunities. I don't enjoy those stories when set in the West, no more do I appreciate them set in Thailand. It's not really a setting issue, because it's perfectly possible to write cheerful stories about life in difficult circumstances (see: any historical novel ever), it's an authorial decision. I'd have preferred, if not an artificially cheerful collection, at least a broader range of moods.
However, that's a matter of taste, not an issue of quality. The book itself is fine.
Very strong debut, and could relate to his perspective.. Was an welcome guest to Singapore Writers Festival 2005
A collection of short stories by a Thai author. This means, crucially, that you're getting stories about Thailand as a complex and real place, not the magical land of golden temples and hookers often described by farang writers. Rattawut is concerned with the regular Thai person, not particularly wealthy, often in a perpetual balancing act just above poverty. He writes about a young boy's relationship with a Cambodian refugee whose now-dead father put all their wealth in her gold teeth; he writes about a young man whose mother is on the verge of going blind; he writes about a teenaged girl whose poor father is losing his cockfights to a rich bully, and the various consequences this has on their family; he writes about a wealthy teenaged boy dodging the draft while his poorer friend cannot; and so on. In some stories, the plot itself is not particularly innovative. The entire emotional arc of the draft-dodging story was predictable, for instance. But the way Rattawut writes allows you to really get into his characters' heads and understand their various decisions, so they are not distant or simple stories, and the Thailand he writes about is a difficult, interesting, complicated place. Definitely recommended, especially for readers of realist fiction or those interested in Thailand/SE Asia as depicted by a local.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
The national bestseller by the award-winning Thai American author. "A brilliant collection . . . brimming with sharp-clawed survival lessons" (Los Angeles Times). Set in contemporary Thailand, these are generous, radiant tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts, and cultural shiftings beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting. Written with exceptional acuity, grace, and sophistication, the stories present a nation far removed from its exoticized stereotypes. In the prize-winning opening story "Farangs," the son of a beachside motel owner commits the cardinal sin of falling for a pretty American tourist. In the novella, "Cockfighter," a young girl witnesses her proud father's valiant but foolhardy battle against a local delinquent whose family has a vicious stranglehold on the villagers. Through his vivid assemblage of parents and children, natives and transients, ardent lovers and sworn enemies, Lapcharoensap dares us to look with new eyes at the circumstances that shape our views and the prejudices that form our blind spots. Gorgeous and lush, painful and candid, Sightseeing is an extraordinary reading experience, one that powerfully reveals that when it comes to how we respond to pain, anger, hurt, and love, no place is too far from home. "Lapcharoensap is a commanding, animated tour guide, and a lot more than that--he can write with the bait and the hook of genuine talent . . . [He] has a gift for the detail that catches not only his Thai milieu but teenage life everywhere." --Darin Strauss, The New York Times Book Review
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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By sally tarbox on 2 October 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
Probably *3.5 for this selection of short stories set in the author's native Thailand but written in English.
I was particularly struck by 'Draft Day' where two young friends attend the draft lottery, where those who make it through the selection process must wait to see whether they get a red ball or black (exemption.) As they root for each other, the wealthy narrator observes "What Wichu didn't know then was that he needed my prayers more than I needed his" - his parents have bought him a guaranteed black with a bribe. An end to childhood innocence.
Also 'Priscilla the Cambodian', where a playmate suffers Thai anti-immigrant prejudice.
In the title story, a young man is accompanying his mother on a first and last holiday as she waits to go blind...
Others feature an elderly disabled American ex-pat living in a difficult relationship with his son and Thai wife; a young Thai man falling for a tourist; and a teen girl whose father is caught up in the murky world of cockfighting...
Some packed quite a punch- I couldn't put it down. ( )