February 07, 2005 12:00 PM

By Rattawut Lapcharoensap

STORIES

CRITIC’S CHOICE

It’s ironic that this brilliant debut collection of short stories so skillfully evokes the touristy bits of Thailand, given that recent news has focused on the devastation there. Written by Lapcharoensap, a 25-year-old Chicago-born, Bangkok-raised writer, the tales feature humorous and poignant portraits of ordinary Thai citizens and their foreign guests. Set everywhere from cheap beach resorts to dodgy Bangkok bars, they’re snappily written and cleverly imagined. Lapcharoensap livens his tales with antic elements including Clint Eastwood, a pet pig who tags along as his Thai owner falls for a bikinied tourist. (When the barely clad visitor asks to ride an elephant, its owner snorts, “What if I went to her country and rode a bald eagle in my underwear, huh?”) In another tale, a wheelchair-user Yank finds joy when “Mister Monk” lets him ride a bumper car at a Buddhist-temple fair. In the end, the author leaves us eager for a sequel—in part, perhaps, to remind us of the enduring strength of Thai culture.

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