Most English-language, Thailand-based fiction follows one of a few formats. Many are noir thrillers about a European male detective with a weakness for Thai bar girls, spicy food, and strong drinks. In some books, the main characters make the startling realization that even though Thailand is called the "Land of Smiles," not all Thai people are grinning fools. Thankfully, Rattawut Lapcharoensap has arrived on the literary scene to throw back the curtain and reveal Thai life in all its depth and richness. His stories reveal not just Thai life but humans living. In "Draft Day" two friends—one rich, one poor—attend the lottery that will determine which of them will have to serve in the military. In "At the Café Lonely" an older brother takes the younger one to his first visit to the local bar in the aftermath of their father's death. The few glimpses of the familiar tourist areas of Thailand are insightfully and humorously told from the Thai point of view. In "Farang" (the Thai word for Westerner) the narrator notes, "Ma doesn't want me bonking a farang because once, long ago, she had bonked a farang herself against the wishes of her own parents, and all she got for her trouble was a broken heart and me in return." Each of the seven stories is crafted with a strong sense of place, decisive, never wasteful dialogue, and entirely memorable characters. The only question left unanswered: When's the novel coming out?
Tue., Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m., 2007