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Paperback Sightseeing Book

ISBN: 0802142346

ISBN13: 9780802142344


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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good*

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Book Overview

One of the most widely reviewed debuts of the year, Sightseeing is a masterful story collection by an award-winning young author. 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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

"The earth is a tightrope; out train speeds across the flat, thin wire."

Sightseeing is a remarkable collection by an author with a keen sense of irony and a talent for description, modern-day Thailand brought to chaotic life in a series of stories that are charming, insightful, touching and remarkably astute. The language is fierce: "The dilapidated playground. The pond with its perpetual scrim of scum. The mangy strays sleeping haphazardly in the streets. The porridge and plantain vendors." Most told in a personal narrative, the stories are varied scenes of love, betrayal and abandonment, always sympathetic and compassionate. Without losing the unique flavor of Thailand in the modern world, every aspect of the country is revealed, the poverty, the lush terrain, the greedy and careless farangs, the spirited Thai people, Cambodian immigrants, the streets teeming with faces, some curious, some defeated. "Farangs" begins innocently enough, a young man regularly enamored of female tourists in their bikinis, especially Americans, destined to have his heart broken over and over, with only his pet pig, Clint Eastwood, for consolation. An eleven-year old boy admires his older brother in "At the Café Lovely", their adventures revealing the dangerous habits of huffers in back alleys, where igniting paint thinner can envelop an unwitting face in blue flames. Yet memory is strong, even years later, the street-tough, newly-orphaned brothers speeding through the night on a motorcycle. "Draft Day" portrays an ultimate betrayal by a lie of omission, years of friendship thrown away as two young men appear for the annual draft lottery. In "Sightseeing", the title story, a son and his mother take a last opportunity to share a short vacation, knowing that soon their lives will change irrevocably. Each new story intensifies the emotional terrain, the characters struggling for dignity in a harsh world. In "Priscilla the Cambodian", two boys make friends with a gold-toothed Cambodian immigrant, as the ramshackle shanties fill in the land, bringing down the property values of local residents. When the enclave is torched, the Cambodians gather their few belongings, ready to move on to the next spot: "Surviving each day seemed a victory and a wonder to them." "Don't Let Me Die in This Place" exposes the fragile bonds of family love and how they are tested, when a wheelchair bound grandfather moves to Thailand to live with his son and "foreign" daughter-in-law, two "mongrel" grandchildren that the curmudgeonly old man comes to love absolutely. Finally, "Cockfighter" is the coup d' grace, a complicated tale of dominance, pride and dishonor, as a man seeks to hold his own at the local cockfights, brought low by a violent thug, but ultimately triumphing with the love of his family: "What kind of world we live in, what men are capable of." Each intricate drama is sensitive, exploring differences in step with a changing environment, savoring the small moments of the human condition, a grand tour of the modern world, the author an able and astut

Sensitive portrayals

I was prepared not to like these stories, based on the backflap photo of the author, who looks like an insouciant schoolboy. What could he possibly know about the human heart? A lot, it turns out. The first story (with the pig) was probably the weakest, but the rest were great. The characters were sensitively drawn and situations interesting: a son vacationing with his mother as she gradually loses her sight, two boys going to the draft selection, an elderly American man relocated to his son's home in Bangkok after a stroke, a young girl witnessing her father's going over the edge with his cockfight obsession. As the Thai reviewers have noted, these stories may not be deep portrayals of Thai culture, but Lapcharoensap has hit on truths about human nature that we can all appreciate, and the exotic (for us) setting doesn't hurt.

We R Siamese if u please / The lovely paired w/ the unseemly

Sightseeing is a supremely mastered collection of six short stories and one novella set in modern Thailand. Mr. Lapcharoensap, who is known as "A", which is a contraction of "cha-ae" (the Thai equivalent of "peek-a-boo"), was born in Chicago, raised in Thailand and the U.S., and graduated from an American writing program. It is refreshing to read stories set in Thailand in which the Thais do not speak in pidgin English. The tales will resonate with you and afterwards you will ponder them and perhaps reread them to look for how his finely crafted sentence structures, alliterations, and pacing made the story move along so well. Each story in sightseeing is led by a different guide, and they allow the reader to observe different aspects of this "Land of Smiles" that are rarely seen by non-Thais. In "Farang," we meet a young man living in the lush beach districts of the South, where tourists and natives show their uglier sides and prejudice amidst the beautiful landscapes. In "Draft Day," economic privileges and class contexts intrude on friendships; and in "At The Café Lovely" a brother recalls a bonding experience and loss of innocence in a cafe that is not so lovely and fingers smell of heaven and glue. Hate and prejudice; bumper cars, abuse and love; depression, disgrace and decay, and the nasty, nefarious habits of prostitution, sniffing paint thinner, and goons with methamphetamine intrude on the succulent landscapes. In "Sightseeing," a son and mother make a trip to the beautiful coast before he starts college, gains some senses, and she loses one of hers. In "Priscilla the Cambodian", two Thai boys befriend a gold-toothed, young girl from the Cambodian refugee shanty town that abuts their struggling middle class housing development, and learn some lessons that shock them from their swiftly ending childhood. In "Don't Let Me Die in This Place," we are introduced to a non-Thai - an older American widower who is suffering from the effects of a stroke and forced to live in the sweltering heat of BKK with his son, Thai daughter-in-law, and two Thai speaking grandchildren. Worse yet, he must drink his beer through a straw. In the author's able hands, the reader will feel both the sweat and frustrations of `Mister Perry.' The collection ends with a novella, "Cockfighter," about a 15 year old teen and her parents. Her father works as a winning cockfighter, training birds to fight. But when a local hoodlum enters this man's domain, the feathers fly and the family might get pecked apart.

WOW... First book I ever re-read as soon as I finished it.

I am half Thai. Born outside of an airforce base in Thailand during the Vietnam war. A product of the war you could say. However, I grew up in the U.S. along with my 4 siblings and my parents. I never really had an understanding of what life is like in Thailand. Even during visits over there, being half American makes me an somewhat of an outsider. This book was enchanting to me. It helped me relate. I read a lot of fiction, and I'm always on the lookout for good writing. This author's writing style is so fluid. The images he evokes so clear, the characters painfully real. A good pain. I've been waiting a long time for someone to write about Thailand and Thai people in this manner. I only hope that Mr. Lapcharonesap continues to provide this captive audience with more. This book is highly recommended.

It's simple: I'm glad I bought this book.

Featured in ELLE January 2005's "Must Read" section is Chicago-born, Bankok-raised Rattawut Lapcharoensap's debut "Sightseeing." In this ingenious collection of six short stories and a concluding novella, my personal favorites are "Draft Day," "Priscilla the Cambodian" and that novella "Cockfighther." A gifted young author right in his mid-20s, Lapcharoensap "de-exoticizes" the country of his upbringing. With its detailed eye for everything, from the simplest actions to the truest human mannerisms and behavior, along with brilliant and believable plots, "Sightseeing" fed me in a way the junkfood I usually waste my money on never could. I finished this keeper of a book feeling just a little more diversely- and well-read and satisfied than I'd been before I'd bought it. As a wonderful bonus, keep an eye out for the appearance of the non-Thai Asians and what they're like (how they've been depicted); namely the ferocious but good-natured title character of "Priscilla the Cambodian" and a somewhat mysterious Filipino visitor named Ramon in their respective stories.
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