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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Department of Book Reports: Tone Deaf in Bangkok (and other places)

Tone Deaf in Bangkok (and other places) by Janet Brown (Things Asian Press, $12.95)
I was looking around for a book to tell you about, when I saw that our friend Janet's book has just been published. We've known Janet from back when she was the children's bookbuyer at Tower Books, and later travel books at Elliott Bay Books. In the middle there, she spent some years in Thailand and fell in live with the country. As we were moving last year, she was busy packing up her Seattle life to return to her beloved Bangkok. You can visit her blog to get a real picture of what is happening there right now. I read about the drive-by shooting of Sondhi Limthongkul earlier this morning, before any US media were reporting the incident.

Janet writes beautifully about her newly adopted country:
“The road took us through flat,open fields that were a waterless under an unbroken sweep of sky. Grassland held haystacks that looked like giant wasps nests,small temples that were Grecianly chaste in their simplicity, and trees that were so picturesquely placed that it seemed as though they had been positioned by a landscape architect. Emerald green rice paddies were contained by borders as precise as picture frames, and a huge pond filled with lotus filled the horizon.”

And on leaving Seattle:
"I live, at this point in my life, in the ideal American city. Seattle is small enough to be friendly, large enough to be urban, and is surrounded by enough natural beauty to launch a million calendars. Its inhabitants can walk to work, drink the tap water, and pass by a dog without worrying that it might be rabid. It's a city without dengue fever, avian flu, malaria, or leprosy. The temperature rarely goes above ninety degrees or much below freezing. Tourists come to the bookstore where I work, raving about this place, and it takes everything I have to keep from saying, "Thanks. Glad you like it. It bores me silly."

I can't help it. I've been warped for life. I've given my heart and whatever might pass for my soul to a city that is infamous around the world for its sin, pollution, and political chicanery. It's such a filthy place that I've scraped dirt from my skin while sitting in an apartment fifteen minutes after having taken a shower, and I've had to pick my way down neighborhood thoroughfares to avoid stepping in dog shit. The air tastes like a cigarette and frequently smells far worse. Most people can't wait to leave it, and I can't wait to return. Yes, it's true. I'm thoroughly besotted with Bangkok.

Like all lifelong relationships, this one has its flaws. It certainly wasn't love at first sight or a whirlwind romance, and I've tried to file divorce papers more than once, but I've always come crawling back."

I found a preview at googlebooks, and you can also see the pictures there. Tone Deaf in Bangkok is available at Jackson Street Books, and of course fine indies everywhere!

Here's something cool if you know someone who has trouble reading a computer screen. Load this widget into the tool bar and you can activate it on any blog or website. I know a couple people with failing eyesight and I'll be passing it along.

Later today, we'll have live music at Virtual Jackson Street Books. Nick Northman will play between 5 & 6pm, (PDT/SL) Nick's music can be heard at his myspace. Get a Second Life this afternoon and join us! IM Dano Bookmite or Michele Mgresh if you need help.


  1. Dear Tammy--
    Thank you for this wonderful review!! I will come and bother you at Jackson Street Books when I'm in Seattle in June for a little while.
    We can chat over a beer perhaps??? I'll bring a 6-pack of Beer Laos from Viet Wah!

  2. Anonymous11:09 AM

    It's a date, Janet!

  3. Hey man this is great! im new to blogging you think you can help me out by linking my blog here? im having an i-pod contest at


We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.