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Sightseeing (2005)

Sightseeing (2005)
3.86 of 5 Votes: 1
0802142346 (ISBN13: 9780802142344)
grove press
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Sightseeing (2005)
Sightseeing (2005)

About book: I have many feelings about this collection of short stories. This isn't something that I could read with a light, easy heart. Indeed, I'm not sure that it was a wise choice to read it all in a day, and I don't think I'll read it again for a while; it's all still working on me. Oh, but don't be thinking it's a bad book. It is a substantial, worthy, important book. I shall straightforwardly say that it is important for Thai authors to be read worldwide. This is not mere tokenism or naive national pride: no, it simply makes sense for Thai people to be heard when they tell their own stories.It is also because the vast majority of books about Thailand in the Western market seems to comprise white Western male authors writing about the exploitation of Thai women and kathoey (especially sex workers) in a dirty, corrupt Bangkok, all with lovingly emetic detail. Obviously I won't deny the existence of sex tourism, crime, or pollution in Thailand, but to depict it purely as a grim hell-hole where Thai people are abject and duplicitous is sensationalistic and Othering. I find it extremely strange that some of these white Western men are well-off expats actually living in Thailand, and yet they largely write only those sorts of things. These books, along with variations of 'The King And I,' form much of the Thai literature known in the English-speaking Western world. This is unfortunate. It contributes to an image of Thailand that is nothing like the one I and other Thai people know. The Thailand I visit - both the physical and mental landscape as told and shown by Thai friends and family - is rather closer in general rythm and dynamic to that of Rattawut's work. This does not mean that it is rosy and perfect; far from it. In fact, the main driving force of Rattawut's stories is, I think, suffering. It is how people from different parts of Thai society respond to suffering, how they bear it, how it affects their loved ones, suffering inflicted from the outside and the kind that grips from inside you. Sometimes the degree of the pain and the resulting trauma pile-up verges on lakhorn nam nao, but there's always a taut smile somewhere, a wise word, a moment of rescue and refuge which keeps it from being sheer misery-porn.If people apparently enjoy reading about cut-up Thai women so much, why not read this kind of suffering? The body of Thai women is not some thing to be exoticised, violated and destroyed just for manpain. Indeed, the women in the vast majority of Rattawut's stories do not die, are not raped, and are not maimed horribly. This is an extremely low bar to set, though. How about this: Thai women get to speak with their own voices, often making the sharpest observations on various subjects. Thai women support each other and rescue each other. They are mothers, businesswomen, sex workers, wives, students. They are a diverse group of people. Rattawut brings this out well, even if he still seems to skew the focus more towards men and boys. The writing - clear, with some nice imagery and a good dash of wit. Also I like the dialogue, sprinkled with Thai. The story which brought the most mixed and strong reaction from me was 'Don't Let Me Die In This Place,' about a white expat's grumpy old father living with him in Thailand with his mixed family. The attitude displayed by the grandfather - the stock Racist Old Grandpa - is one which is, unfortunately, familiar to me. Predictably, it's about the Racist Old Grandpa learning to be slightly less obnoxious and starting to accept his family and vice versa. The part where the old man seeing his big white son with his tiny Thai daughter-in-law dancing and realising that their love seemed brave made me feel strange on a personal level. I suppose it was good that he recognised this; however, why should their love be validated by this?... I won't go on.I personally could never rate a book just according to its "unputdownable"-ness, its simple happy-factor enjoyability, how easy it is for you to inhabit the very pages as one curls up with an old, still-wanted lover. To always conflate what you like with what is good is not wise. I may not have liked every single aspect of the book, and many stories made me feel deeply unhappy and confused. But it doesn't mean that I should then immediately dismiss this book as unimportant: it is largely well-crafted, challenging and substantial. (and I'll never think of or suan in the same way again!)

My ever first reading on Thai literature. It's hard to get hold of translated Thai literature to English. The Thais actually have a deep and good literature preserved since the old Siam Kingdom. I stumbled and self learned of a poem in Thai which makes me interested with the Thai literature. I was looking for a book in Kino bookstore and stumbled upon this book- a compilation of short stories. I was gleeful. This book did not failed me- a damn good book to read. Well-recommended to those who would like to know more about Thai culture and the life of the hoi polloi. This book basically covers a wide topics and putting yourself as a luk kreung Thai-farang (who loves poo ying farang and how the Thais actually view farang as- not every Thais welcome farangs in Thailand), a nong chai in a broken family, friendship where it's torn due to bribery,a luk with khun mae who almost entering the permanent loss of sight (the saddest short stories in this book, a friendship between two dek Thai with dek kampucha- and also how the khon thais treat the refugees of cambodia), an old farang who came to stay with his son and his Thai wife in Thailand (how he mistrustful of him towards his daughter-in-law, and, last but not least, about the mayhem a family faced with the betting in the cock-fighting. The way Khun Rattawut wrote tis book is damn interesting. It's as though you were part of the various characters of the short stories, and how he managed to move you through the sea of emotions. You will see yourself as a ลูก,เพื่อน,ฝรั่ง,& ลูกครึ่ง. Sightseeingเป็นหนังสือที่ดีมากที่จะอ่านน่ะค่ะ....ชอบมากค่ะ
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Janine Barzyk Ackerman
Really loved this collection of 7 short stories -- some were heart-warming, some sad, some funny. I don't normally like short stories because I find them unsatisying, but this collection was very satisying, with the exception of the last story "Cockfighter" (which is long enough to be called a "novela" I think). All the stories take place in Thailand. I think if I had never lived in Thailand, I wouldn't perceive the stories in the same way, but since I lived there, when the author described the street cafes -- I could picture the dirty plastic chairs and when he talked about the smells and stray dogs and markets, I could picture it all in vivid detail. I'm really confused about the last story "Cockfighter" and am reading all the Goodreads review to try to figure out what happens in the end. I'm developing my own theory ... but need to discuss!
Sightseeing, a collection of short stories by a Thai-American author about Thailand, mostly from the eyes of young Thai people, will definitely impact the way I view my upcoming vacation to Thailand. I know the country is a popular tourism destination, and as such the locals must have complicated relationships with the people who view their country and lives only as a way to receive pleasure, whether from the sex trade or tourist activities or beautiful landscapes. Lapcharoensap presents such a blunt view of tourists in the first story, "Farangs," that it made me cringe with recognition and guilt: "Pussy and elephants. That's all these people want....You give them history, temples, pagodas, traditional dance, floating markets, seafood curry, tapioca desserts, silk-weaving cooperatives, but all they really want is to ride some hulking gray beat like a bunch of wildmen and to pant over girls and to lie there half-dead getting skin cancer on the beach during the time in between." That discomfort Lapcharoensap successfully sows in "Farangs" changes forms, as the rest of the stories focus mainly on the lives of ordinary Thai people, outside the tourist industry. He does not paint their lives as pretty, but he also does not fall into the temptation of cliché: these stories are meaningful, they are deep, and they are heartbreaking. "At the Café Lovely," "Sightseeing," and the novella "Cockfighter" were my favorites, delving into universal themes of loss, love, aging, pride, and family. All of these short stories are well written and insightful, showing wisdom beyond the author's 26 years at the time of publication. I eagerly look forward to more work from Lapcharoensap, particularly a full-length novel. I would recommend this collection to anyone, but particularly to those traveling to Thailand, to get a taste of the culture and a reminder of what kind of farang not to be.
“This is how we count the days. June: the Germans come to the Island – football cleats, big T-shirts, thick tongues – speaking like spitting. July: the Italians, the French, the British, the Americans. The Italians like pad thai, its affinity with spaghetti.”I love to travel. I’ve been to many foreign countries, but one country I’ve always wanted to visit was Thailand. That’s one reason I love books. In Sightseeing, the author takes us on a visit to his homeland without so much as jet lag. The book is actually a series of short stories that give the reader a real sense of Thailand today, from the perspective of the natives. The writing is crisp and the stories seem so real, you can’t help but feel this kind of learning is important. You’re not in Kansas anymore. This is Thailand.
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