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Sightseeingby Rattawut Lapcharoensap
Winner of the Avery Jules Hopwood Award and the Andrea Beauchamp Prize
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
A glorious fiction debut written with exceptional acuity by an award-winning twenty-five-year-old Thai-American writer.
Sightseeing is a masterful new work of fiction, a collection of stories set in contemporary Thailand and written with a grace and sophistication that belie the age of its young author. These are generous, tender tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts, and cultural shiftings beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting. Rattawut Lapcharoensap offers a diverse, humorous, and deeply affectionate view of life in a small Southeast Asian country that is inevitably absorbing the waves of encroaching Westernization.
In the prizewinning opening story, "Farangs," the young son of a modest 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 pompous 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 a triumph of storytelling in which a young girl witnesses her proud father's valiant but foolhardy and drawn-out battle against the local delinquent and violent hoodlum 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]n exuberantly talented young Thai-American writer....A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[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
"Gifted with colonialist global-gallop subject matter, the writer does not rest there. He finds a deadpan heartfelt voice, true comic scope, a whole new use for rage. There's a force and rich latent potential in all the work." Allan Gurganus, Judge's Citation from the Hopwood award
"This is a brilliant collection....It has an interesting set of characters with their own idiosyncratic concerns, complex cross-cultural settings in both Thailand and the USA, and, best of all, a manner of direct-but-subtle presentation that gives to all the scenes an intelligence, humor, restraint, and feeling that are most impressive." Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
"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
"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
"Stunning in their craft, evocative in their sunbaked setting....Lapcharoensap crafts the seven stories in his collection with incredible realism and grace....A young man coming into his own." Boston Phoenix
"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 a contemporary Thailand that's resonant, rich, and real; the style is vivid and lush, tactile and enveloping, immersing us in an immediacy of sights and sounds....Lapcharoensap's vision is candid and wise well beyond his years." Sara Good, Elle
"A collection of stories by a prodigiously gifted writer, exploring themes of loss and identity, what it means to be a son, a brother, a parent, a lover, a Thai, an American, a Thai-American, a human being. This writer is blessed with intelligence, humor, a gift for language, a fine sense of structure and deeply important material. Sure to go far." Eileen Pollack, author of Paradise, New York
Sightseeing is a masterful new work of fiction, a collection of stories set largely in contemporary Thailand and written with a grace and sophistication that belie the age of its young author. These are generous, tender tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts and cultural shifts beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting. 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.
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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