Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Siamese Pleasures

SIGHTSEEING Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Yiyun Li’s adept short stories gave us glimpses of a China coming to terms with modernity; now, Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s debut collection brings to our notice the lives of those in Thailand in an age of globalisation. (Both were recently anointed by Granta as among the best young writers in America today.)

Many of the first-person stories here could have a common narrator: a young, alienated Thai attracted to and made guilty by the charms of the West, with a tough-talking mother and absent or deluded father. Such is the case in ‘Farangs’, and ‘At the Café Lovely’, for example. In ‘Don’t Let Me Die in This Place’, Lapcharoensap delineates with equal felicity the predicament of an ageing American living in Bangkok with his son’s Thai family. The long ‘Cockfighter’ is a tad overstated, yet remains fluidly written and moving.

The prose style is a delight: accomplished and attractive, with a light-heartedness that doesn’t ignore the acute issues beneath -- be they gender differences or the competing attractions of nationalism and the West.

Worth your while? Certainly – and not just because you were planning that next holiday in Patpong

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