Every Monday I enjoy the literary pages of the Outlook section of the Bangkok Post. The articles are usually well selected for their diversity and informative value and, because they are mostly imported verbatim from Western newspapers or press agencies, word-perfect. The only jarring notes are with locally penned articles, which often beg for substantial subediting.
A case in point this morning: under the clunky title ‘Collection of books that come at perfect timing’, a review of three recent books on Thai-Cambodian relations now and in the past could have done with some sprucing.
The piece has quite a few quaint, almost poetic, formulations, such as ‘(the book) is basically a recollection of booklets’, ‘a Hindu temple on the brink of the…border’, ‘Thai bitterness over the Preah Vihear’, ‘so many Thais are stuck in historical wounds’, and ‘In arguing the genuine land that belonged to Siam…the lecturer…’.
But it is by the end that mistakes pile up:
…her book is to confront those parts straightforwardly, be it the support Thailand has secretly and overtly showered the Khmer Rouge in fighting against the Vietnam-backed Heng Samrin regime. However…That unfortunate event should explain why – from the Cambodian’s viewpoint – Thailand is not a popular neighbour. The three books well compliments one another…
Methinks ‘be it’ introduces a list, not a single item. But, well, so be it. I wonder if showering the Khmer Rouge means taking them to the cleaners, and who that Cambodian fellow is I haven’t the foggiest. And when three books are not enough to form a plural, why shouldn’t they be full of praise for one another?
But then, this is trifling compared to Sharp’s verbose Thaiglish ad on yesterday’s Brunch Magazine’s back cover about ‘Preventing the threat of “The Invisible”’ in the form of ‘imminently dangerous TB bacteria and influenza viruses’ – eminently repellent prose that should imminently result in lost sales. Are times so dire that even Sharp isn’t sharp enough to afford professional copywriting and editing?