Fieldwork, Mischa Berlinski, 2007
New York born Berlinski studied at UC Berkeley and Columbia before becoming an expatriate part time journalist in Thailand. There he became interested in Christian missionaries in Thailand. A study on the missionaries turned into this first novel by the young classicist.
What happens when a third generation American missionary meets a second generation ethnographer/anthropologist while both are working with – studying the same remote tribe in Northern Thailand? Love and romance or murder most foul. Read this novel for insights into dedicated multi generational Christian missionary families who have lived among their group so long the grandchildren could be mistaken for tribal natives. Also read this novel for insights into the lives and difficulties of being a professional ethnographer-anthropologist trying to balance an academic career and publications with the need to do real field work. The tribe itself is mythical so as not to offend the real hill tribes living in Burma and Thailand. Also meet the contemporary narrator trying to unravel the secrets of the missionary and the ethnographer. See what modern Thailand feels like to an American expatriate . Overall insightful and entertaining.
Eat the Document, Dana Spiotta, 2006
An ambitious novel about two lovers; violent anti-Vietnam war activists living separate lives underground since 1972 when a bombing went wrong. The book manages simultaneously to give a picture of life in modern day NGO-eco-activist Seattle, the lives and attitudes of the disaffected, the nostalgic, the fashionable consumerism where anything can be commoditized and of course the inevitable coffee culture:
Espresso and cappuccino had become so ubiquitous in the city that nearly every block feature and espresso cart, or coffee kiosk, or a cappuccino counter. The trend was so overtly specific; there were conventions and argot. Cappuccinos could be “wet” – meaning made with not just foam but a little steamed milk. There were macchiato and lattes, and a thousand variations on beans and brewing. Naturally it didn’t take long for the coolest, newest coffee bars to defiantly serve only drip coffee. In retro, normal-sized cups. Eventually, perhaps, it would be instant coffee.
One of the quirky interesting characters suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experiencing horrific nightmares of napalm and high altitude bombings. But this character never went anywhere near Vietnam, faking the draft physical hearing test to be classified 4F where he sits out the Vietnam War safely at home.