David Young, the man who gave us “Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go,” “Sukhumvit Road,” “Bangkok Dick” is back with his new novel “No Problem Girl.” David recently sat down to give us this interview.
You’ve been in Thailand now for over a decade. Is there a particular moment that stands out?
One day about seven or eight years ago, I found myself in this giant, overly-lit store picking out curtains. I’d sort of been assigned to do this by the woman I was seeing at the time. If I didn’t come home with curtains, she’d stop talking to me. I don’t mean she’d stop seeing me, I mean she’d stop talking. She’d clam up because she knew it drove me nuts. Anyway, up until then, the decisions I’d been faced with in Thailand rarely ventured beyond “get-up or sleep-in.” All of a sudden, I’m picking out curtains? Yeah, that was the moment. The moment I knew. My glory days were over.
How would you define “Amazing Thailand?”
It all comes down to shoes. There’s a couple that sit on the sidewalk outside the bank and do nothing but fix shoes all day. You show up with a broken shoe, hand it over, and they work their magic right there before your eyes. These people absolutely refuse to let old shoes die, and they seem very happy doing their work.
You live in Ayutthaya. Why on earth would you do that?
There’s a lot of history here and it’s mainly in the furniture. I like knowing the history of furniture. I like to know that the woodwork has stories to tell. Take these tables and chairs. These were built for the original Rodeo Bar probably fifteen or twenty years ago. It was one of the first bars I’d ever been to in Thailand, and it was one crazy joint. The tables are heavy wooden doors sawed in half and sitting on what looks like a bunch of antique butter churners. I really can’t tell if they’re unique or ridiculous. After the Rodeo closed in 2001, the tables and chairs were piled in the back and sat there gathering dust until a local bought them for another bar a couple of years ago. And everyone that goes there looks at those tables and goes, “Huh?”
So what’s it like being a writer in Thailand?
I’m a legend in my own mind. No, seriously, it’s all right. The thing with these books is that you really don’t know what kind of life they’ll have. It’s always the ones you have the least faith in that go the distance. My first book, “The Scribe,” for example, has just been translated into Romanian. Romanian! I’m happy, God knows, I’m happy for the people of Romania, but I don’t know how it will go over as a pick-up line. Y’know, “hey, baby, I just got translated into Romanian…”
You just released your sixth book here in the Kingdom. How would you classify your work?
Writing is terribly dull work. I don’t know how anyone can do it without laughing. I think of my favorite writers – Bukowski, Celine, Hamsun, Fante – even Dostoyevsky – these guys had remarkable senses of humor yet still produced deep, meaningful works. Reading a book by a writer who can’t laugh is like being repeatedly hit by a ball peen hammer.
So you’re one of those guys who only likes dead authors?
Among the living, I’m a big fan of a Cuban writer named Pedro Juan Gutierrez “Dirty Havana Trilogy” was one of the best books I’ve read in recent years. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to take a shower after every twenty pages or so. Also, I have to include Spalding Gray’s “Impossible Vacation,” a book I re-read every year. Spalding was with us up until last year when he committed suicide.
Anyone else while we’re on the subject?
D.H. Lawrence, Tom Waits, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Homestar Runner, Alex Chilton, films from the 70’s, Groucho Marx, Toshiro Mifune, Stephen Colbert, Soren Kierkegaard, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
And how about your new one?
The new one is called “No Problem Girl.” It’s about a spoiled, somewhat clueless bachelor named Peter who finds he has to get married in order to inherit the family fortune and maintain his affluent lifestyle Since Peter doesn’t want to stay married, he concocts a plan to hire a woman to be his wife for as long as it takes for the money to come through. He lands upon the Siam Dreams Marriage Agency and decides a Thai girl would be perfect for his scheme. Ah, but what a girl she is.
And wackiness ensues?
I notice you don’t do a lot of self-promoting.
Yeah, that’s something my therapist and I are working on. I have a hard time putting a book in someone’s hands and saying “Dude, you’ve gotta read this!” I’m really happy when someone tells me they like one of my books, but it’s short-lived because I’m too busy worrying about my next one. I also have this weird belief that books find us – you know, the people they’re meant for. It’s not always immediate, but they come along eventually. I don’t think I’ve ever picked one up because the author was out hyping it. OK, once. It was Anne Rice in Chicago and I really really wanted her autograph in a hardcover of “Vampire Lestat.” I was young.
Ten years ago, I found a palette. A way to write about Thailand with ample doses of comedy, tragedy, and the downright bizarre. I never imagined I was writing myself into the wonderful world of “sexpat fiction.” Well, what can I say? The label stuck. Now I’m a sleazy, misogynistic, oversexed, emotionally-challenged individual that watches young girls from the corner table of the KFC. You got me.
So how can I find out more?
Any last thoughts?
Always give your pants a shake before putting them on. You never know what decided to take up residence during the night.