Set in contemporary Thailand, this new collection contains generous, tender tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts, and cultural shifts beneath the glossy surface of a warm setting.
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.