marcel barang

The Catcher in the Rye’s visitor

In Reading matters on 04/10/2009 at 10:07 pm


It’s almost as if I was already in France: my speech in French wrote itself today. I’ll go through it a few times before I leave but basically it’s in the can. I even timed myself reading it aloud, to make sure not to go beyond the allotted twenty minutes.

The downside was a headache afterwards, for a couple of hours. A Parcet® took care of it.

A dozen pages of Four Reigns followed, and then I went searching through back notes for names and phone numbers to prepare for a heavy day again tomorrow, with something I hate even more than shopping: PR. Time to give a last chance to the ‘heirs’ of those Morm Luang sisters that have been a pain in my neck since early this year (I’ll explain some time later) and then see to this PayPal connection and find the time as well to go and get my new reading glasses, buy bread and other essentials and perhaps see my daughter, now relieved of her mid-year exam.

Last night, I was disappointed by ‘Hunter Maeng’s death’ by Sarkhorn Phoonsuk: it is much less coherent than his later story, ‘The woman kite’. That it takes place in a brothel to begin with doesn’t make it necessarily erotic, although making love while classical-dancing sort of taxes the imagination.

The trouble with the story is that it starts in one direction (the sexual aspirations and practices within a Manora theatre group) only to go on a tangent and leave aside several of the actors I would like to know more of to, first, introduce a writer who, on a chance encounter, will become the recipient of our dead hunter’s will of sorts, and thus slide into a metaphysical or mythical dimension quite at odds with what precedes and far from clear. Besides, the young beautiful dancer Hunter Maeng has been courting so unsuccessfully that he had to relieve his gonads in a brothel all too readily falls into the arms of the writer on his (the hunter’s) dying say-so. Add a ‘decommissioned whore’ whose prancing with the hunter reinvigorates and puts back into service, and by then it doesn’t matter one bit that you’ll never know how the hunter met his death. In summary, the various elements don’t add up and much of the action is improbable, to say the least.

On the other hand – I can say it now that she has been simmering in her corner for a full day assuming on her own that if I made no comment it meant I was being Thai withholding nasty criticisms – I liked very much Kanthorn Aksornnam’s latest short story, ‘Pha-lee’ (the name of a monkey), one of her best so far – not as good or funny as ‘Fresh Kills’, but much better than what I have read of hers lately.

It seems Khun Noo has a fixation with primates – doesn’t she, now, Khun Siriworn? The other month, in ‘Fresh kills’, it was a genial baboon; this month, it’s a whole troop of macaque monkeys, with no fewer than two outstanding, scary males of the species. Early next year, wait for it, she might even go into apes: chimpanzees or farangutans…

Reading this story, I was reminded of those jungle pieces by Ma-lai Choophinit, minus the macho posturing but with the plus of memories of childhood adroitly blended in. I also noticed how deftly she handles repetitions – à la Saneh Sangsuk and even à la Seksan Prasertkul* – but the danger here would be to overdo it: it’s just a writing technique; too much of it would be boring.

[* Which reminds me: his story comes out tomorrow in the Bangkok Post – don’t miss it!]

The only bad point is that is it too long for the Post, so Kanthorn Aksornnam’s international fame will have to wait a while.

After gocatchering through ‘Hunter Maeng’s death’, I ended the night with a few more pages of The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger’s masterpiece, which I first read nearly half a century ago. My excuse is I found an old copy in Bang Lamphoo the other day and couldn’t resist buying it. What a romp!

But something funny happened around Chapter 13, almost halfway into the book: I had a visitor. A previous reader suddenly started underlining fragments of sentences.

It occasionally happens in those second-hand books that other readers score passages in the margin. Some even write comments or – those learning English – pepper the margins with words in a foreign language.

This one underlined, very neatly, with a pencil and a ruler, or failing that with a bookmark. And in so doing took substance before me. What he underlined was this:

P80: I’m one of these very yellow guys. … p85: She didn’t seem too goddam friendly. She was very nervous, for a prostitute. … She never said thank you, either, when you offered her something. She just didn’t know any better. … p86: I felt much more depressed than sexy. … [Boy, was] I feeling peculiar. … It was really quite embarrassing. … p87: I don’t think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long. … She made me so nervous.

And that was it. I’m still on page 128 and, to make sure, flipped through the remaining page: no more underlining.

So Holden Caulfield did score with at least one jerk, à propos a disappointing visit to the brothel. If Sherlock was back home, from just those bits and pieces, he’d tell you that the reader in question was an 18-year-old compulsive masturbator wearing Size 13 two-toned shoes with a pimple of the left cheek, dandruff and halitosis to boot – alimentary, my dear What’s on.

  1. คุณมาแซลส์คะ ขอบคุณค่ะสำหรับความเห็น
    เรื่องสั้นหนู เล่นคำหรือคะจึงกลายเป็นชื่อ ‘Kill Fields’ ไปได้
    หนูนึกว่าเป็นคำผวนของ ‘Freshkills’ ^^”

    ในช่อการะเกดเล่ม 47 มีอีกเรื่องสั้นอีกเรื่องหนึ่งที่อยากแนะนำ ไม่ทราบว่าคุณมาแซลส์อ่านหรือยัง
    คือเรื่อง ‘เรื่องเล่าไม่มีชื่อ’ ของวิวัฒน์ เลิศวิวัฒน์วงศา

    ช่วงนี้อ่านเรื่องสั้นสนุกไหมคะ รักษาสุขภาพนะคะ

  2. Oops. Corrected. Sorry for the error and thanks for the correction. Thanks also for your reading suggestion: the answer is ‘I haven’t read it yet, because it’s one of the longest ones’; I’ll do so as soon as time and mood allow. It’s nice anyway to have dedicated literary scouts at hand.

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