Book Review
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If I were the President

Khao San Road

If I were the President

John Arnone, resident in NE Thailand has been at it again. A compulsive writer, he is well known to the readers of the letters pages in the major English language dailies, expounding his own brand of philosophy. You never meet John Arnone in print and leave without getting some ideas as to where he is coming from, and where he thinks we should all be going.

Now I have probably been less than kind to John Arnone’s writings in the past, and I must tip my hat to the American expat in that he admits his previous books were not all that great. “In 1998 I wrote a book entitled ‘Why I left America’. It was an angry rant, poorly written and contained many famous names, not to mention a lot of expletives. The book was rejected by several publishers and an agent in Los Angeles.”

I reviewed that previous book, writing, “By page 174 he is describing himself appearing as a racist homophobic misogynist! However, he does explain that whilst holding opinions, he does not pretend to be offering proof. Nor does he offer any solutions. But what he has done is state quite categorically just why he left America.”

This concept of offering no solutions, while piling on the muck, was not lost on others either, including a woman in the US publishing business who chided the fact that Arnone criticized almost everything about America, but offered no solutions for the many problems he outlined. Arnone admits to this and accepts the criticism.

If I were the President with the subtitle ‘Why I left America Part II’ (ISBN 978-616-7526-01-0, self published 2011) is John Arnone’s attempt to redress that situation, and by dreaming of himself as the supreme US commander, with the supreme powers invested in a President, he has the solutions.

In the 35 chapters, Arnone covers such disparate items as Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, The Economy, Deadbeat Dads, Religion, Science and Experimental Medicine, the News Services, advertising, The American Family and finally “Reality”. And it is in that final chapter that John Arnone bares his soul. He is not the self-centered man he appeared in his previous books.

The book is available in major bookstores with an RRP of B. 395, so it is not an expensive read. I began reading it with a bias, based on his previous efforts, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. Though much of his ideas are quite frankly not workable in today’s age, he admits this. On page 9 he reports that, “There’s the way it should be and there’s the way that it is. My first book represented the way that I believe it is; this writing is my take on the way it should be.”

John Arnone’s writings have grown up. This book is not a rant, but a reasoned approach to the problems in America (and many other countries, I might add) with some ideas on how to get over the problems. It is not an expensive read, and worth a few hours of your time in reading it. Well done, John.


Book Review: By Lang Reid

Khao San Road

The latest book from David Young (The Scribe, Thailand Joy, Fast Eddie’s Lucky 7 A-Go-Go, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok Dick, No Problem Girl) is Khao San Road (ISBN 978-616-90671-0-8, Hostage Press International 2010).

For those who are not conversant with Khao San Road in Bangkok, this is the Thailand Mecca for the backpackers, similar to Earl’s Court in London used to be for the Australians doing Europe on five pounds a day. Khao San Road is the place to get fake diplomas as well as real hangovers. Young describes Khao San Road as being, “Parades of young people rambled about, talking, laughing, and drinking from open bottles of beer. Everyone seemed involved in some great, final, free-for-all of independence and irresponsibility.” Excruciatingly correct.

Author David Young then takes his readers to that Khao San Road, where you meet a cast of several players, all in the one area, but all with different agendas. There is the American self-help guru and his fiancée, both of whom are desperately in need of help. The Thai national English language program school teacher who is not even barely literate in her subject (an all too frequent an occurrence), and who is given the brief to find five native English speakers in one weekend. There are a couple of grifters, all living off their wits, and the wallets of the unsuspecting newbies. Another an American youth living under the shadow of his deceased elder brother. A young teenager attempting to gain a place in a TV reality show and the TV producer who finally shows everyone that reality shows are not ‘real’. An aging “rock star”, who never really was, and for whom life was only sex, drugs, but probably the rock and roll was lost in the mix.

With so many characters in the cast, author David Young splits the book into several mini-chapters, which keeps the continuity going, not the reverse that you might expect.
The beauty inherent in this book lies in the way author Young manages to combine all the characters, eventually bringing them all together for the denouement. A clever psychological release in the end.

At B. 495 in English language bookshops, this is a hefty read (341 pages) for your money. It is also a book that you will find you need a good long weekend to read, even though the book only covers two and a half days in the lives of the Khao San Road travelers.
I found this an excellent book, full of details to give the reader a good insight into the personalities of the cast, and on the way, some minor characters, who also produce even greater depth to the plot and the players. Like a New Zealander called Ziegfried and a baby called Weasel. That these disparate characters could all impinge upon the lives of each other might look preposterous from the outside, but if you think back to your headstrong days of youth, none of it is impossible.

Well worth picking up this book even if just for a look at your own forays into the adult world. A psychological ‘thriller’.