It’s always sad to have to drop a book after twenty or thirty pages, but Pong’s new world left me with no choice. It’s written in elementary school Thai, which may not be a bad thing in itself though a bit odd for a SEA Write finalist.
Mind you, the author boasts in the foreword about writing this marvel of a hundred plus slim pages in one month, all told.
Well, let’s see. There is this little fellow Pong who wonders where his parents come from and their parents’ parents and their parents’ parents’ parents and so forth for a couple of pages going back to Genesis if not the Big Bang, and a five-year-old girl, Kaeo, fascinated by a public phone box. Pong thinks of himself as a monkey and, presto, turns into one. Then he fancies himself a bird and, presto, a bird he is, flying to Kaeo’s phone box of course.
By then I had enough of that mush, and wondered how any self-respecting member of the preselection committee could favour such childish fare, perhaps to do a repeat of The Happiness of Kati, the winning novelet last time around, and drag the SEA Write Award from the heights of academe down to kindergarten level yet. May the worthy literary pioneer in question be banned from jury duty forthwith, amen.
On the French slope of my molehill, I have already told what I think of Uthis Haemamul’s Lap Lae Kaeng Khoi and Wimon Sainimnuan’s Banished Souls: the former too long by almost half and with flat dialogues despite a brilliant plot; the latter a well-meaning political pamphlet that forgets what novel writing is all about. Uthis’s third novel is a marked improvement over the previous ones; Wimon’s a temporary aberration, I hope, from the man who gave us dozens of punchy if too hastily written novels, from Snakes and the rest of the Khoak Phranang quartet to the award-winning Immortal.
In the absence of the untraceable Talei Namnom, this leaves me with The quietest school in the world and The Butterfly’s Reflected Dream, serious endeavours by the look of them. The quietest school is nastily packaged, not to say it’s a rip-off: two volumes printed internet-style (like here) with arty black-and-white illustrations, plenty of off-white pages, and … a CD my computer won’t swallow. The whole thing is sold for B596 and could hold in a normal paperback half that price. At least, the cover (the same for both books) is quaintly appealing (a wooden chair under a wooden tree in a ricefield), which is more than I can say of the vaguely Chinese horse’s rear end of The butterfly. But one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so see you later.