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Rattawut Lapcharoensap's Sightseeing would probably never have come to my attention if it hadn't been for McNally Forbes's idiosyncratic way of arranging fiction regionally. The compact, handsome Grove Press edition caught my eye on the South Asian shelf. Never having so much as thought of Thai fiction, much less read any, I was stricken with cosmopolitan remorse. I chose the book after the most cursory examination. Remorse turned out to be rewarding.

Sightseeing is a collection of eight short stories, written in English - okay, this is Thai-American fiction, not so exotic after all - by a man who, born in Chicago in 1979, was taken to Bangkok at the age of three. There would have been three more dislocations when, in 1995, Mr Lapcharoensap returned to the United States alone. All six of his stories are narrated in the first person, five of them by young people of Thai or Thai-American descent. The exception, "Don't Let Me Die In This Place," is told by the failing father of an American businessman who has married a Thai woman and settled in Bangkok. A typical American man who wants to take care of himself but no longer can, the father doesn't take to the "exotic" atmosphere of Thailand. You feel very sorry about this helpless plight, but at the same time you can just imagine what tales his daughter-in-law and grandchildren would tell about an impossible old man.

Continue reading about Sightseeing at Portico.


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