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Sightseeingby Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Named the David TK Wong Fellow in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich for 2004–2005
This beautiful collection of stories affirms that love, loss, and longing are universal emotions. Lapcharoensap is a thoroughly talented newcomer, and I was very moved by the voices of these Thai characters.
Synopses & Reviews
Sightseeing is a masterful debut written by a young award-winning Thai-American writer. Set in contemporary Thailand, these stories 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 in Sightseeing present a nation far removed from its exoticized stereotypes.
In the prizewinning opening story, "Farangs," the son of a beachside motel owner commits the cardinal sin of falling for a pretty tourist, and the confrontation that ensues between the native boy and the girl's American boyfriend culminates wondrously amid flying mangoes and Clint Eastwood — a pet pig — swimming out to sea. In "Sightseeing," the much-anticipated holiday of a young man about to leave for college and his loving and fiercely independent mother becomes a different kind of pilgrimage altogether when they are forced to confront the mother’s impending blindness, The concluding novella, "Cockfighter," is "an astonishing coming-of-ager" (Kirkus Reviews), in which a young girl witnesses her proud father's valiant but foolhardy battle against a local delinquent whose family's vicious stranglehold on the villagers has passed down unchecked through generations.
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.
"The Thailand of Westerners' dreams shares space with a Thailand plagued by social and economic inequality in this auspicious debut collection of seven plaintive and luminous stories. In the title tale — an exquisite meditation on human dependency — a son and his ailing mother must accept the dismal reality of her encroaching blindness and what it means for his plans to attend college away from home. In 'Don't Let Me Die in This Place,' the most exuberant of the stories, an ornery and uproarious widowed grandfather, recently crippled by a stroke, moves from Maryland to Bangkok to live with his son, Thai daughter-in-law and their two 'mongrel children.' 'Farangs' and 'At the Caf Lovely' convincingly examine adolescent friendship and love, as does 'Priscilla the Cambodian' — though when a refugee camp is torched by native Thai xenophobes, it veers toward the politically dark and ominous. Politics and fear also play a role in 'Draft Day,' a painfully grim story about two young male friends, one of whom avoids military conscription because of his privileged background, and 'Cockfighter,' the final and longest of the pieces, in which a berserk local thug rules a town through violence and corruption. Young or old, male or female, all of Lapcharoensap's spirited narrators are engaging and credible. Anger, humor and longing are neatly balanced in these richly nuanced, sharply revelatory tales. Agent, Amy Williams at Collins McCormick Literary Agency. (Jan.) Forecast: With foreign rights already sold in eight countries, and blurbs from Charles Baxter and Allan Gurganus, this stellar debut will likely be one of the most widely reviewed and read story collections of the year. " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] welcome addition to the continually expanding and diversified realm of Asian American literature....Though the stories describe a culture that will be foreign to most readers, they contain themes that touch on the human spirit." Library Journal
"The short story is not dead. But it has taken a 26-year-old, Bangkok-raised author...to infuse moving, imaginative new blood into the literary form....His prose carries an unforgettable resonance." Steve Garbarino, New York Post
"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." The New York Times Book Review
"[A] brilliant collection....The perfect novella "Cockfighter,"... [is] a stirring coming-of-age fable, brimming, like most of Sightseeing, with sharp-clawed survival lessons." Los Angeles Times
"Rattawut Lapcharoensap is a writer to remember. In this accomplished debut collection of short stories, Mr. Lapcharoensap displays a wicked command of language and an unerring sense of place....[He] never overreaches as he charts the inevitable collisions between East and West. In his hands whimsy serves as a foil for lives invariably colored by loss, pain and disappointment." The Wall Street Journal
Set in contemporary Thailand and written with a grace and sophistication that belie the age of its young author, this masterful new collection contains generous, tender tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts, and cultural shifts beneath the glossy surface of a warm setting.
About the Author
Rattawut Lapcharoensap was born in 1979 in Chicago and raised in Bangkok. He was educated at Triamudomsuksa Pattanakarn, Cornell University, and the University of Michigan, where he received an MFA in creative writing. His honors include the David TK Wong Fellowship, the Avery Jules Hopwood Award, and the Andrea Beauchamp Prize. His stories have appeared and are upcoming in Granta, Glimmer Train, Zoetrope: All Story, One Story, and Best New American Voices. Sightseeing will be published in nine countries.
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