Bangkok Days, By Lawrence Osborne

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The Independent Culture

Lawrence Osborne is in "headlong flight". Bangkok, he discovers, is the perfect asylum for one such as himself: broke, with no career and no prospects. What he does have is an "inquisitive loitering", useful since the "streets are cul-de-sacs so there is no point in having a direction".

Stylistic loitering guides – or rather, fails to guide – this narrative, made up of Osborne's amusing observations. Built in much the same way as those cul-de-sacs, one often feels as if wandering lost, but some reflective or arresting description will thankfully be waiting. His evocation is comic rather than romantic; the river surging past his apartment is "the colour of pea soup into which a baby has puked". He vividly sketches the characters he meets: a man with a degree in air-conditioning, one with an air of "upper-class twittery". Another contrasts the physicality of Bangkok life with the isolation of Western life: "There's a reason we're so neurotic and violent and unhappy ... no one ever touches us." Osborne's travelogue is, however, memorably touching.