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Book 54 Completed

August 24, 2010

Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap is a fantastic collection of short stories. Honestly, in the entire bunch, there wasn’t one story that I found sub-par compared to the others — they’re all engrossing, engaging, with real characters and creative glimpses into an authentic Thai experience. Lapcharoensap was only 26 when this book was published and, honestly, his youth doesn’t show here. I was mightily impressed with his use of language, coupled with deep insight into a variety of themes: Marriage, love, parent/child relationships, foreigners, disappointment, regret.

The last story in the collection, “Cockfighting” is particularly powerful. And the title story moved me to tears — despite my feeling that Lapcharoensap could have taken that particular situation further than he did.

As I was reading, I was inwardly complaining about the similar tone between all the narrators in the first few stories — characters I found to be not easily differentiated except through the circumstances of their stories. Then I read “Don’t Let Me Die in This Place” (the only story narrated by a non-Thai) and loved the old man, his voice so distinct from the others, bound by depression and prejudice and, ultimately, a desire to live. “Draft Day” is tightly written and totally worth discussing — I’ve already dog-eared it to copy in a few days (when I Go. Back. To. Work) to share with my Creative Writing class as an example of creating a sympathetic character whose circumstances should make him/her unsympathetic.

“Farangs” — about foreigners in Thailand — made me cringe a little and contemplate my own trip to this beautiful country. How many “farang” sins did we commit without understanding the culture and the people? Plenty, I’m sure. And while I’m thoroughly sick of reading about awful, ignorant Americans who go to other countries and treat the people there like playthings, I suppose the reality of their existence perpetuates their appearances in literature.

I suppose my least favorite was “At the Cafe’ Lovely”. And I deem it my least favorite because I didn’t find any of the characters memorable or redeemable.

This was a good choice and now I totally feel like I’ve missed the boat — I should pick up more short story collections! I forgot how much I enjoy them (if they’re interesting reading, of course) and I’m far more apt to use a short story in my classroom too.

Tomorrow — Cambodia. I’m still on the hunt for a Vietnam book…although, I have a few at home unread from that cool Vietnam class in college that I might turn to in a pinch. Then we’ll head up to China…Korea…JAPAN!! I don’t know what I’m going to pick for Japan! But I’m super excited about it. Murakami? Natsuo Kirino? I feel like of all the books I read, Japan shouldn’t be a dud.

Also…I’m anxiously waiting by my mailbox today for my preordered Mockingjay book to arrive. While I’ve told myself I won’t start it until our road trip to Idaho…there is a good chance that won’t happen and as soon as it arrives in my mailbox, I am going to start reading it and lose precious sleep. It’s not like I can even help it. Those books are addictive. And Katniss is totally a better heroine than Bella. *Barf* And the love-triangle is COOL and UNPREDICTABLE! She loves Gale…but Peeta! Peeta. (I know people stayed up all last night to finish the trilogy — please, please tell me it’s only a trilogy — so, I’ve been trying to avoid googling spoilers all morning. I’m bad. I know. I like to know how things end! But, I’m being very restrained.)

Hey. I won’t apologize for my excitement over YA lit too. And whatever the next big Harry Potter/Percy Jackson books arrive when Elliott is old enough to know he wants to read them…I’ll be the first in line. I can’t wait until I have kids who are old enough to read chapter books to. I have all my Ramona Quimby books ready to go. Roald Dahl. Lemony Snicket. E.B. White. The Chronicles of Narnia. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. And if I ever have girls? Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. Oh man. I’m too excited now. But I get excited too when Elliott carries around his Richard Scarry Goose Rhymes and Nursery Tales book and says, “Meow. Meow. Meow” because he wants me to read “The Three Little Kittens Who Lost Their Mittens” over and over and over and over again. The rest will come all in good time. 🙂

I went off on a tangent, didn’t I? Oh well. Happy Tuesday everyone.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. jillsherman permalink
    August 24, 2010 11:57 am

    And a wonderful tangent it was! Reading to my children was one of my greatest joys and now I get to do it again with the wonderful little people you are bringing into my life! Thank you

  2. Jessica permalink
    August 24, 2010 8:34 pm

    TEAM PEETA (though I still think his name is stupid). PEETA… pita… he bakes bread…. yeah, just ridiculous.

    • August 25, 2010 6:58 am

      Oh dear. I didn’t pick up on that. That’s awful! Maybe character naming isn’t her strong suit…but I’m totally on Peeta’s side here. I’ll know more in, oh, a few hours! 🙂

  3. August 25, 2010 12:30 pm

    You can read this book:
    The Girl in the Picture: the Story of the Story of Kim Phúc, the Photograph and the Vietnam War by Denise Chong

    It’s the iconic picture of the girl who was a victim of the Napalm attack. Her bio in wikipedia:

    It’s a biography, not a novel. Would that qualify for your challenge?

  4. August 26, 2010 11:27 am

    I loved Monique Truong’s “The Book of Salt”. That takes place mostly in Paris, but there are bits in Vietnam.

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