three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

Stories

A-SightseeingIn seven stories told mostly from youthful perspectives, Lapcharoensap depicts westernization playing out on the once isolated shores of Thailand. "Farangs" (Thai for "foreigners") tells the tale of a cross-cultural teenage romance. In "Cockfighters," a downtrodden father goes up against the local hoods in their village. "Don’t Let Me Die in this Place" concerns a cranky old American forced to live in Bangkok with his son’s family. In the haunting title story, a spirited mother going blind and her college-bound son take a beach holiday together. Combining poverty with the lush and juxtaposing political machinations and social inequality, Lapcharoensap demonstrates why he is a new writer to remember.
Grove. 250 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 0802117880

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"… subtle and tone-perfect. … [Lapcharoensap] sketches an adolescent’s post pubescent cruelty, a grandfather’s ornery isolation, a daughter’s bitter humiliation, with equal skill." Carlin Romano

Houston Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Although all the stories are set in contemporary Thailand, no hint of exoticism wraps either the characters or their situations." Fritz Lanham

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"After two relatively weak offerings—the obligatory yarn about the pernicious influence of Western culture and another dealing with the poverty and squalor of Bangkok—he reels off a string of five impressive efforts, several of which display a degree of compassion and perception that is rare in a writer of any age." Brad Zellar

Salon.com 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Lapcharoensap’s boy narrators are so fully realized that you want to stay with them, even when the towns, back stories, and plots around them change. They are sweetly innocent and often brutal in that innocence, barely blinking at the adult tragedies unfolding around them." Priya Jain

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"When he’s really going strong, Lapcharoensap is a commanding, animated tour guide, and a lot more than that—he can write with the bait and hook of genuine talent. At his weakest, however, he leans on exotic atmosphere and little else." Darin Strauss

Critical Summary

Born in Chicago and raised partly in Thailand, Lapcharoensap mines this dual cultural perspective effectively and memorably in Sightseeing. Critics agree that this new author, who has already won awards for some of these pieces, shows all signs of major literary talent, with a wisdom far beyond his years. A few reviewers found the stories of mixed quality, with occasional lapses of flat description, clichéd subject matter, or hit-you-over-the-head symbolic imagery. These missteps contrasted with the stellar achievement of "Cockfighters" and other standout pieces in the collection. One thing is certain: all the reviewers happily anticipate Lapcharoensap’s next publication, reportedly a novel.