With the publication of Sightseeing, post-post-post-colonialist literature has been born ... It is in the accumulation of these details that Lapcharoensap reveals his strength as a writer. With immense skill, he treads the line between narrating a story that is driven by his engaging and plausible characters, and making serious socio-political points about the way in which Thais are debased by flogging themselves and a bastardised version of their culture to foreigners ... Most impressive of all is the manner in which Lapcharoensap finds moments of beauty in otherwise bleak settings. This collection is intensely political and profoundly angry about the corrupt, poverty-stricken condition of Thailand, yet every story is primarily driven by a warmth and a belief in humanity that allows for unexpectedly uplifting and touching moments. That he achieves this without ever straying into kitsch is astonishing.
It's the distance between that outsider's paradise and the native's often grim reality that Lapcharoensap shows us in his tales, so tenderly crafted and beautifully realized that they'll snuggle up behind your heart and stay there for a long time ... The first five stories are all told from the point of view of young boys with similar voices, and this has a comforting effect. One of the difficulties in reading a short story collection is that, just as you get used to a particular voice, it abruptly changes, and Sightseeing provides a nice change from typical collections for that reason. 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.
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 the hook of genuine talent. At his weakest, however, he leans on exotic atmosphere and little else ... Lapcharoensap handles the discord between East and West ham-handedly ... Even some of his better stories are occasionally laid low by imprecision -- of language, of detail. He can fall into shorthand that reads, in its paucity of descriptive effort, like stage direction ... But whenever you're about to throw up your hands, some fluent craftsmanship or inspired imagery lures you on. There are moments you can't ignore.
...in Lapcharoensap’s hands we feel like we are seeing these sights and insights for the first time. The six stories in Sightseeing address familiar situations — fickle teenage love, loss of innocence, intergenerational conflict — but they are jerked out of the ordinary course by the sensitivity of Lapcharoensap’s prose. Fresh and well-crafted, they reinterpret everyday pain and beauty ... Lapsharoensap’s descriptions are sensually rich and emotionally concise. He writes with authority, completely inhabiting his stories from the first sentence ... It is only when illusory paradises collapse that Lapcharoensap’s characters can discover the aching beauty of the real world.
Seven distinct first-person voices. Seven tales of the familiar among the unfamiliar. Seven stories told without a hint of gimmick. Just acutely-observed, slyly powerful storytelling from a literary voice you’ll want to hear more of ... Rattawut Lapcharoensap will blow your expectations out of the water.
The collection's six stories and a novella reflect Thailand as felt and observed by adolescents living there ... Each story skirts the paradox of exotic paradise in the land of cockfight and draft lottery ... This reality is appealing as literature, but it no longer seems fresh ... In each story, though, Lapcharoensap provides a different tour guide. All come with a teenager's gift for the simultaneous sarcastic quip and heartfelt emotion, each fits memorably into the short story's coming-of-age subgenre ... The writing is often very sloppy. But often enough it's also tight and taut and yet as fat with con- and subtext as short stories are meant to be.
Sightseeing is a promising debut — a book that works better when it’s tougher than when it strays toward sentiment, even if it sometimes goes for easy targets (crass Western tourists, small-town thugs). At its best, it does justice to the complications and ironies that arise when cultures collide ... The one real failure here, strangely, is the book’s title story.
Lapcharoensap’s stories of family life – often terribly dark and tragicomic – take you to places both familiar and exotic ... Writing alternately in the voices of a teenage boy, a young girl and a crippled old man, some American, some Thai, the author finds as his fodder the caste systems of the terribly rich and horribly poor ... The title story, 'Sightseeing,' is the most moving ... Listen to these stories. A review cannot do them justice, the attention to detail, to being young and growing old, to getting it right. And along the way, oh, the sights you will see.
Sightseeing describes an area that is so unbelievably lovely many readers will dream of planning a trip to that area where the Indian and the Pacific Oceans almost meet ... Writing that brings us an author self-confident enough to breathe life into his characters and then let them loose, is high on my list of favorites. That is one of the reasons I will watch for more from Lapcharoensap. He is not tempted to manipulate but merely absents himself to allow the characters to live their lives.
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 ... 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.