Monday, November 18, 2019

Bronwyn Reviews: Bright


Bright
translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul
Publisher: Two Lines Press
Released: 2019


reviewed by Bronwyn Mauldin



Bright opens with a slow-motion heartbreak. A father tells his five year-old son, Kampol, to wait here, I’ll be back in a bit, then drives away with his baby brother. You, the reader, know he isn’t coming back. His mother left a few days ago after a nasty fight. Kampol sees his father drive away, then paces back and forth for hours, watching the curve in the road for his return.

The neighbors, residents of a small Thai village, do what they can. Over the course of the novel, Kampol’s basic needs and more are met by an assortment of people with varying degrees of caring and, at times, resentment. He has food, shelter, clothes, toys, and friendship. The village shopkeeper, Hia Chong, makes sure he learns to read. Uncle Dang occasionally asks him to give him a massage by walking up and down on his back. This turns out to simply be an excuse to give Kampol a few baht to spend. Uncle Dum, Aunt Tongbai, Old Jai, Mon, and others take turns stretching their meals to feed him, giving him a corner in their homes to sleep.

The title of this book, Bright, is a translation of Kampol’s family name, Changsamran. The word can also mean “joy,” which might appear as a contradiction of the hardships of this boy’s life. However, as Pimwana has said, “when the readers finish the story, they’ll likely find that the name is not ironic at all, for sadness in a story can be mixed with happiness.”

Pimwana is well known in Thailand for her short story collections. While Bright is a novel, it reads more as a collection of interconnected stories. This book was originally published in 2003, earning for Pimwana Southeast Asia’s most prestigious literary prize, the S.E.A. Write Award. It has only now been published in English by Two Lines Press. In fact, they say this is the first novel by a female Thai writer ever to be published in English.

Pimwana shows, never tells, with her prose. We see Kampol laugh and we see him cry, but we are seldom inside his five year-old mind, or the mind of any other character. This puts the reader at some distance them. We learn the motives of one character from their actions and from what other characters say about them.  

This distance does not dull the heartache we feel for Kampol as he goes about his ordinary days, or when he goes off on adventures like seeing a likay troupe perform, taking a bus to the beach by himself, or sneaking into a wedding with friends to try to cadge a free meal. For example, one day, Kampol announces to his friend Oan that not having parents isn’t all bad, telling him,

“I have more freedom than other people, that’s why. I don’t have to keep asking my mama for money. I can buy all the snacks I want, I can play wherever I want; I don’t have to ask permission from anybody.”  

These stories give a view into the lives of the people who make up a Thai village, and a universal but very particular boy’s life.





Bronwyn Mauldin writes fiction and poetry and is creator of The Democracy Series zine collection. Her newest short story appears in the 2019 Gold Man Review. More at bronwynmauldin.com.




Friday, November 1, 2019

Audio Series: Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape


Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.




Today, Joshua Chaplinsky will be reading an excerpt from his most recent collection Whispers in the Ear of a Dreaming Ape. Joshua 
is the Managing Editor of LitReactor.com. He is the author of ‘Kanye West—Reanimator’ and the story collection 'Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape.' His short fiction has been published by Motherboard, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Clash Books, Pantheon Magazine and Broken River Books. Follow him on Twitter at @jaceycockrobin. More info at joshuachaplinsky.com.  









Click on the soundcloud bar below to listen to Joshua read from his collection:






What it's about: 

The debut short story collection from Joshua Chaplinsky, author of Kanye West—Reanimator. Thirteen weird pieces of literary genre fiction. Singularities, ciphers, and reappearing limbs. Alien messiahs and murderous medieval hydrocephalics. A dark collection that twists dreams into nightmares in an attempt to find a whisper of truth.