That Wat Yuangkaeo can write, three out of the ten stories in Bandai Krajok (The glass staircase) attest: ‘Rueang Lao Saeng Takiang’ (The tale of the lamp lights) is a complex enough tale of family love with a ghost story flavour. ‘Saphan’ (The bridge), which was awarded a literary distinction in 2008, is a mild enough story of political infighting at local and family levels. More convincing is ‘Bon Rang’ (On the rails), where the relation of a train trip from Hat Yai to Bangkok by a priest is a finely understated study in religious hypocrisy.
That Wat Yuangkaeo can be versatile is indicated by the range of stories he handles: fantasy, psychology, science-fiction, ghost story, politics, supernatural… and by the writing techniques he uses for tone, presentation and self-aggrandisement.
That Wat Yuangkaeo can appeal is further underscored by the fact that two other (long) short stories here were also crowned by literary prizes: ‘Krajok Khong Ta’ (Grandpa’s mirror) was Suchart Sawatsi’s choice as one of the best stories he published in Chor Karrakeit in 2009, and ‘Pathisonthi’ (Conception – in the sense of ‘fertilisation’) received the Nai In Award last year.
Trouble is, I couldn’t finish reading either story or any of the others as I have a limited taste for incoherent flights of fancy under the guise of ‘magic realism’ and am averse to intellectual masturbation.
How do you say that in Thai? Chak Wao Samong Sueam, perhaps?
For the life of me, pace Khun Suchart and at least one of the judges who put this book on the short list of SEA Write Award contenders, I can’t see what there is to praise in the pseudo scientific ramblings about dimensions 1, 2, 3 and 0 (!) of the universe, interviews with God (?) mixed with a froth of political events past or present that go on and on over the 8 000 words of ‘Grandpa’s mirror’ – and in such cockamamie stories as ‘Krorp’ (Framework?), ‘Hyperspace’, ‘Pharp Thee Hai Pai’ (The picture that disappeared) or ‘Conception’. Their lack of coherence compounded by their lack of scope (whether or not the writer invokes the whole universe or its dimensional declensions or eggs the pudding with afterlife and all the rest of it) without the saving graces of inspired writing soon makes them boring and irrelevant.