Dan Wickett of emergingwriters.net interviews Rattawut Lapcharoensap, whose new collection, Sightseeing, was published earlier this month. Here’s a snippet:
Dan: Your descriptions of Thailand in the stories give the juxtaposition of living in what others consider an exotic retreat. Was this something you were specifically trying to show?
A: Indeed it was; I’m glad that it came across as such. I’d always found it peculiar, personally, that the place where I lived–Bangkok–seemed a kind of paradise to others, since it hardly seemed a paradise to me or to those around me. Bangkok was simply the setting of our daily struggles and our daily joys. It was where we *lived* and, as such, perfectly mundane. But here were these people voluntarily arriving in Thailand to RELAX, and here, too, was an entire economic infrastructure reliant upon their presence and the money in their wallets. For better or for worse, it’s increasingly difficult these days to go around Thailand without being reminded of the tourism industry. I think that a strange, albeit very modern, situation often arises out of this: these emblems of leisure–the modern traveler, vacationer–must rub shoulders on a daily basis with an entirely different social class, those who must toil for their pleasure. It makes for peculiar, though at times heartbreaking, situations. Jamaica Kincaid has written quite beautifully about this in “A Small Place,” her essay on Antigua’s tourism industry.
It was particularly interesting to read Lapcharoensap’s thoughts about this, considering the review the NY Times gave of his work. Since I write about Morocco, many people come to my work expecting descriptions of rugs or souks or harems, but of course, that’s not what stands out to me. I’ve written about this before on this blog, so I won’t belabor the point here, but all I’ll say is that, to me, Morocco isn’t some exotic locale that I’m supposed to be highlighting for the reader. It’s just part of who I am.