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Bangkok Days Hardcover – May 26, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; First Edition edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477322
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bangkok is the sponge that absorbs those who have lapsed into dilettantism, writes Osborne (The Accidental Connoisseur) in recounting his time in the fabled city of recreational sex and Buddhism. As he encounters characters questing for sensation and knowledge, he muses on how easy it is for Westerners to remake themselves in the East—much as the 19th-century English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens did when she tutored the royal children of Siam and fashioned herself into a mythologized literary figure. As he discovers in an encounter with a Catholic missionary, it is the ideal place to lose the burdensome grip of the self. In Osborne's narrative, Bangkok serves as an existential crossroads for a cast of British, Australian and Spanish expatriates who are haphazardly searching for and running away from responsibilities; in the labyrinthine city, these tourists have established a playground for adult pleasure. As their documentarian, Osborne is at once incisive and romantic. He creates a character-driven travelogue that reveals but does not exploit the salacious subtext of Bangkok nightlife. It is a journey flush with atmosphere but tempered with a subtext of lonely Western wonder. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for Bangkok Days:
 
“Wickedly enjoyable.” —Joshua Hammer, The New York Times Book Review

"Bangkok is the sponge that absorbs 'those who have lapsed into dilettantism,' writes Osborne (The Accidental Connoisseur) in recounting his time in the fabled city of recreational sex and Buddhism. As he encounters characters questing for sensation and knowledge, he muses on how easy it is for Westerners to remake themselves in the East-much as the 19th-century English schoolteacher Anna Leonowens did when she tutored the royal children of Siam and fashioned herself into a mythologized literary figure. As he discovers in an encounter with a Catholic missionary, it is the ideal place to lose the burdensome grip of the "self." In Osborne's narrative, Bangkok serves as an existential crossroads for a cast of British, Australian and Spanish expatriates who are haphazardly searching for and running away from responsibilities; in the labyrinthine city, these tourists have established a playground for adult pleasure. As their documentarian, Osborne is at once incisive and romantic. He creates a character-driven travelogue that reveals but does not exploit the salacious subtext of Bangkok nightlife. It is a journey flush with atmosphere but tempered with a subtext of lonely Western wonder."—Publishers Weekly

"This book should rightly have been called 'Bangkok Nights,' for Osborne (The Naked Tourist) provides a raunchy account of the nightlife and bars and bargirls of Thailand's capital. In particular, he delves into the lives of a motley band of aging, libertine Westerners (Farangs) living in his apartment complex and explores the city in their company. Their tragicomic lives are compelling, and Osborne provides some extraordinary anecdotes. For instance, when an illness takes the author to the Bumrungad Hospital, he finds that it is more like a five-star hotel than a hospital. Despite being confined, the author and a companion manage a visit to a girly bar with two IV drips in tow. What lifts this book beyond mere sleaziness is Osborne's prose. He uses language with great skill, and the sounds and smells of Bangkok are wonderfully evoked. Osborne's writing conveys a genuine love for the city and an appreciation of its ethos of easygoing tolerance. Recommended." —Library Journal

"In Bangkok Days: A Sojourn in the Capital of Pleasure, Osborne revels in the intersection of the sacred and the profane . . . Bangkok Days is a refreshing diversion from the common portrait of the city's licentious reputation. From the Muslim neighborhood surrounding the Haroon Mosque to the ancient Buddhist Loha Prasat temple, Osborne finds beauty in all corners of the city. Meanwhile, his cultural exploration is sprinkled with information about the city's historic past. Osborne is at once sincere with his audience but occasionally deceitful with those he interacts with in the book. It's a commanding combination, one that lures readers to follow him around every twist and turn of Bangkok's back alleys." —Forbes.com


More About the Author

Lawrence Osborne was born in England and lives in New York City. A widely published and widely traveled journalist, he is the author most recently of "The Accidental Connoisseur," "The Naked Tourist" and "Bangkok Days," all published by Farrar Straus and Giroux. He has lived a nomadic life in Mexico, Italy, France, Morocco, Cambodia and Thailand, places that he draws on in his fiction and non-fiction. His short stories have appeared in magazines such as Tin House, Bidoun and Fiction, while his upcoming novel "The Forgiven" will be published by Crown in 2012.

Customer Reviews

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Osborne captures the human condition perfectly and has an excellent ability to observe and articulate his environment.
Mike
Very well written,felt like i was there with him,describes human emotions and desires exeptionally well,would like to read more of the same.
Mark O'leary
It is one of those extremely rare cases that I could not possibly imagine changing a single word without changing the book.
Kelley Fox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By John P. Douglas on August 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Initially I thought I related to "Bangkok Days" because I have visited Bangkok six times. The book is comprised of twenty-seven short independent chapters. Since I visited most places Osborne describes I related to his narrative. Then I thought I liked the book because of Osborne's literary craftsmanship. Some of his sentences are amazing! Often I wondered how long it took Osborne to write this? For instance, in discussing a Catholic nun, " . . . her white hair sticking up like the crest of some strange and sympathetic reptile, and I shook her hot hand. She seemed to suffer in the heat."

But the book is not about Bangkok. It is about us. In the West we accept our relationships and cities as the best of all possible worlds even if they are often frighteningly boring, clean, neat, totally predictable and vacuous. We love "antiseptic wastelands." Bangkok is far, far more interesting, even if a great deal more chaotic, dirty and smelly - but oh, so interesting! We accept power, prestige and wealth to be the only worthwhile values in life. "Bangkok Days" asks whatever happened to fun - is there room in the West for pleasure? Perhaps Osborne's search in Bangkok is a metaphor for our search for the other half of our souls?

Yes, this is a "love letter to Bangkok." A must read!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mark Stevens VINE VOICE on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Part personal journal and part travel writing, "Bangkok Days" is a street-eyed, alley-eyed, canal-eyed, sidewalk-eyed take on a brutal city where mystery and honesty, myth and reality, fable and truth all collide. It's been twenty years since my lone visit to Bangkok, but Osborne's writing brought it all back. I was a mere tourist, Osborne is a writer who knows how to stay with a subject and dig deep. The feeling of reading "Bangkok Days" is to see Bangkok inside-out. There is romance-free. The tales are drowned (occasionally) in booze as Osborne and his assortment of colorful companions explore various parts of the city or re-explore familiar ones. You will gain a keen insight into the recent protests, glean some brief spiritual Thai history and have a few myths exploded, most notably a wonderful section that deconstructs everything about the "King and I" and Yul Brynner. "Bangkok Days" is an explanation of the city precisely because it sets out not to be an explanation of the city. The book is essentially a series of broad brush strokes with occasional flashes of poetry. It's as much about Osborne as it is about Bangkok, so don't be fooled going in. "The restaurant was on the second floor, an Ayurvedic buffet with cumin-sprinkled boiled eggs thrown in to appease the frustrated carnivores. The idea behind the spa was to control one's intake of calories to a bare minimum determined on the day of one's arrival by the in-house nutritionist. Fortunately, the guy had fled to Bangkok and the buffet therefore seemed morally aimless. The waiters lit a candle for us; the windows rattled and whined.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Supervaffel on July 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I visited Bangkok for the first time only weeks before reading this book, and really enjoyed following the adventures of Lawrence Osbourne in a small underworld community of foreign transplants to Bangkok. It's a travelogue, and nothing too momentous happens, but the sights, sounds, impressions, are beautifully narrated. I particularly enjoyed the naked honesty and self-irony Osbourne employs in describing some truly awkward moments. I laughed out loud many times, but also felt sad, engaged, and provoked at different times throughout this thoughtful story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tristia on July 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Osborne's book presents a deft dance between Anglo cultural paralysis and the steamy, messy promise of the East. He manages to avoid romanticizing Bangkok by showing us the ways that the city affirms rather than annuls the loneliness of the western male ghosts who mostly populate his canvas. And the sexual and gustatory promiscuities that prop up the heat-wilted balloon of Bangkok life are ecstatic only in the moment. Yet, for this very reason, the tenor of solitude takes on a strangely Buddhist cast. These characters might be damned, but they're damned in part for how completely they've melted into the here and now. Osborne shows us that the underbelly of Nirvana may not be all that different from the topbelly. With the depth of this meditation, there's a great deal of humor here as well--rich language and observation of the physical fabric of a major city. All of it brings home to the reader the endlessly mysterious exoticisms and simply seedy ins and outs of his or her own fleshly being.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. on April 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lawrence Osborne relates tales of his Bangkok days in short vignettes that take us to places the average tourist is not likely to see. The advantage of that is the glimpse we have of a different Bangkok; the disadvantage is that many of these places see no tourists for good reasons. They are not interesting, and neither is the telling of them. So I found myself skipping over much of Bangkok Days, and enjoying only segments of the story. (The trip to Hua Hin fascinates.) But for someone who has traveled frequently to Bangkok, my view is not his. For one, the company of women takes up much of the story, the seedy side of the street gets fair notice. I did not see the drug epidemic that he writes of, but then, I don't travel in those circles. Osborne comes to the joy of the Chao Praya River only in the last pages, but for me it is the life of the city, with all the commerce leading one to imagine stories that a single individual can never master.
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