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เหงื่อออกรายละเอียด: Janky Bangkok reading Robbe-Grillet (& not-reading Murnane)

Thai text


24-26 Sept 2012. Bangkok

«What the person probably remembers is part of one experience of having read the book: part of what happened in his or her mind during the hours while the book was being read.»

The above is from Barley Patch by Gerarld Murnane, which i started to read while waiting for our plane at Fiumicino... until i got bored of it after 50 pages or so & left in in the terminal (& watched as some poor unsuspecting soul picked it up, little knowing what they were getting themselves into to). The book is essentially Murnane writing about writing (or not writing, as he renounces fiction writing)—a self-indulgent exercise for lack of anything else to write about. In answer to his question that prompts the book (inspired by Beckett), «Must I write?» the answer (to Murnane) is: no. If you don't have anything to say, then don't bother.

wat pho

gold buddhas & gold-framed script

Boarded our 747 & did some writing of my own. Then i started to read Recollections of the Golden TriangleRobbe-Grillet by Alain Robbe-Grillet. I grabbed it thinking it might have something to do with Thailand or Cambodia, but alas, the only real country mentioned in the book is Uruguay. Not sure i liked it as much as Jealousy or In the Labyrinth (which i read in Kenya), but still, much better than the likes of Murnane. It starts out as a sort of detective novel, an investigator at a crime scene, but then things get weird & in a Dexter-like way (but nearly so campy), it seems an alter-ego of this investigator is the one actually doing the crime, or crimes—ritualistic rapes & cultish sacrifices.

deer prudence

deer prudence

As in the last French novel i read (in the French Alps), this book is also somewhat obsessed with sex, but not as annoyingly so (or at least the language makes up for it). And not so much sex (and yes, violence as misogynist as Houllebecq), as fetish for women, or young girls. The writing is far more abstract & stylized, ritualized to match what's going on. Here's a representative sentence:

«Having once more checked the solitude, the absolute tranquility of this part of town already described—this muddy clutter of derelict sites and ruins, punctuated by open spaces, where I have just stopped the big black car alongside a hoarding covered with multi-coloured posters hanging in shreds—but remaining in my seat in order to be able, in an emergency, to drive off immediately before the intruder has had time to notice my prisoner laid out beside me, working carefully and precisely with one hand only (my left hand is still resting on the steering-wheel) while leaning sideways towards the languid, prostrate body, I slit the golden dress axially with a single stroke of the scalpel from the triangle of orange silk (drawn out sideways towards the hips), the top edge of which just discloses the beginning of a fleece of fair hair (also triangular although smaller in size and much closer to the equilateral model), right up to the throat, where a little cross comes into view, held around the neck by its slender chain.»

janky shrineshrine/vacant lot

Classic Robbe-Grillet. Very detailed, surgical descriptions. Like reading a geometry or logic book written by an obsessive-compulsive lunatic with a fine arts degree in architecture. Not a lot happens, but something about the meticulous methodology makes you think every detail must mean something. Even he himself says it:

«It is important to give as precise an account of it as possible at this point and not allow oneself, henceforth, to become burdened by details that are either pointless or casually unrelated to the whole.»

ugly dog shrine

shrine with discoballs & some ugly dog creature

Couldn't sleep on the plane. We had a 3-seater for the 2 of us & we tried this way & that until i ended up on the floor so j could spread out on the seat (she had to go straight to a meeting & present first thing when the plane landed). It was interesting laying on the floor—i could only see everyone's feet & baggage & with my head resting on the ground & could sense the baggage hold below & below that 35,000 feet of dark sky down to Afghanistan or whatever country we were flying over at that moment.

king of bangkok

the king discarded along the chaophraya

Got to our hotel & had breakfast with j on the muddy river, then she went to her meeting & i walked around some. Didn't visit many tourist things or take photos as i've already done that once or twice before. Mostly i just wandered & let myself get lost, though i did spontaneously revisit the Reclining Buddha & spent more time in that temple complex (Wat Pho). If you look past the main attraction, there are interesting intricacies in the surrounding structures & the order you see things makes a difference, kind of like reading a mandala.

reclining buddha

mother of pearl souls of the Reclining Buddha's feet


thai text diagrams


I had actually set out in search of someone who could do me a Sak Yant tattoo. Tried to arrange it online, but all it seems you can find is the monk dude (Ajarn Noo Kamphai) that inked Angelina Jolie & now he is all famous & charges up the wazoo. You see loads of Thai people with tattoos here, but those giving them are nowhere to be found. Last time i was here i asked around & most Thai people get their ink done at some wat or another on the outskirt of the city.


street food

Flâneured through some alleys & markets, with stall after stall of those tiny magic amulet things that the Thai love (they shop with magnifying glasses in hand to better scrutinize the detail). Aside from the occasional ground-up rhino tusk & phallic statues, not much else besides these miniature charms... & of course food & spices galore.



Pigged out on noodles on the street somewhere & grazed on other snacks here & there as i made my way back. Bangkok is janky for sure. Lots of wires & obstacles & clutter & broken-up concrete—you have to watch where you are going. Scrawny cats & dogs are given free reign. Smells of jasmine & rice & spices mixed with wafts of sewage smell. Flashes of saffron robes in electronics stores or riding in the stern of a river ferry. Every exposed surface clammy or moldy. Tuk-tuks speeding by or lining the streets & alleys, the drivers always wanting to take you somewhere. People sleeping sound in unseemingly places. Girls in doorways yelling, «massssaaaaggge», in nasaly tones, otherwise Thai people don't pay much attention to you, at least not like the hassles you get in Africa or India.

wat comes around

wat pho


far flung

Thai people are nice & polite like Japanese people, laid back like Californians, with a bit of productive brashness (a la Chinese) thrown in for good measure. They are chill & joke around, but at the same time they get shit done. If they do get angry, they seem to quickly express it & it quickly diffuses or dissipates (rather than builds up).

white text

worm-holed text

We were considering whether we could live in Bangkok a few months ago as there was a job j was considering here. We could almost live here for the food alone, but otherwise we are not so sure. It's not a very walkable or bikeable city & it seems oppressively hot & sultry the whole year round. And a bit chaotic. But living in a Buddhist-driven society seems better than one fueled by any other religion.

sleeping buddha dog

Got back to the room just as the rain came. Napped off some jet lag. J got back & also napped, then we feasted at Khinlom Chomsaphan—whole fish with chili sauce, green curry, tom yum, papaya salad, beer (with ice, as they do here) & mai tais—on the river where little canoes would pull up selling dried squid, flattened & grilled right there on the canoe.

Khinlom Chomsaphan

tasty feast at Khinlom Chomsaphan overlooking Rama VIII bridge

Woke up before the sun & before it was even light j & i ran a few loops around Sanamluang (no, not my favorite Thai restaurant in Hollywood, but a big open field in the middle of Bangkok, which googling now i guess was a cremation ground of sorts). J is off to another day of meetings & i am writing, sitting on the great muddy river, watching the flux of passenger ferries & barges. The river is chocked full of floating debris, on the verge of overflowing, sandbags here & there in spots to keep it from spilling over into the city.

mural inscriptionmural details

Finished reading Recollections of the Golden TriangleRobbe-Grillet, so i ventured over to Khaosan road (which otherwise i avoid like the plague) to find another book to swap it with. They have some used bookstands there fueled by the books the trustafarian backpackers leave in their wakes. Found a Faulkner book i haven't read, Intruder in the Dust & a book by Evelyn Waugh, Black Mischief. Ate lunch at some place on our street (Phra-A-Thit Road), the menu was all in อักษรไทย & no one spoke English so i had no idea what was what, i just kept pointing to what other people were eating & pointing to my mouth. First i had bowl of some sort of noodles with beef & greens & chili, followed by another bowl (what everyone else was doing) of crushed ice & as far as i could tell some gelatinous goo made of tamarind that made for a nice antidote to the first dish (that was hot in both senses of the word). After, they count the bowls & charge you 15 baht (48 cents) for each. Then the rain set in like clockwork & here i am. Tonight we are going on some sort of river cruise dinner thing with j's colleagues & tomorrow morning we're off to Cambodia.

wat roots

 >> Angkor wattage & the agrAryan root of ruin, Siam-reaping the smell of Faulkner & bang-cocking in on an unlocked Camus

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