Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Sukhumvit Road. A Review.
Having lived in Thailand - man and boy - for over twelve years, and having written about the city myself, for my money Sukhumvit Road by David Young is one of the most entertaining and rewarding reads set in the City of Sin. The novel centers around Bami, a bargirl who has more than a few admirers. These devotees include an alcoholic writer, a lapsed preacher, a hardened criminal, a hopelessly naive school teacher and a burnt out cynical Bangkok bar owner. These colorful characters all gravitate around Bami and her place of work - Sukhumvit Road. The place of dreams and nightmares. Trapped in their own suspended disbeliefs, private hells, lost in the mess they have orchestrated for themselves they all believe that she, Bami, just might be the answer to their prayers, dreams, bar fines...
As with much of Young's work the conflict is the cultural difference. Love and commerce. Money and hope. Us and them. The humor is often intelligent, sometimes slapstick, always amusing. The style is easy, light-hearted, fun. It is a page-turner. Nothing too heavy. I've reread the novel four or five times picking up something new each time.
What makes this book stand out among Young's others is one thing. One important thing. In this novel there is a fully developed antagonist - the bug-eyed Frye Frisk. The devil with a passport. The sex-pat tourist gone extreme. The kind of character that Dana could have written. Frisk is without a doubt the strongest character in the book. One that Sukhumvit Road homeboys can fully identify with. A masterful creation...
The novel at over 400 pages is Young's most adventurous work and I think by far his best.
Essential reading for those interested in the genre of Bangkok fiction.