Tori Truslow’s ‘Markets like Wide Open Mouths’ is not yet an anthology of writing and photography from Bangkok that you can purchase or procure (unless you ask her very nicely). I say ‘yet’ because I don’t doubt that it will get snapped up in the near future by a discerning publisher. In the meantime it is a thirty page photocopied and stapled black and white booklet with a scrap book aesthetic.
Sprinkled with photography (this aspect suffers the most from the photocopying sadly) Truslow’s offering concentrates on six locations or aspects of Bangkok: the Old City moat, Charoen Krung, The Temple Fair, Lumphini Park, The Museum and Songatews. In these explorations, Truslow is understandably fascinated by the layers of mythology, history and contemporary life that make-up a place:
‘The canal’s a groove in the century’s surface at my feet, and I fancy that if I started from there and peel away this veneer, this today, the memories of the place as it was would spring up in its place, that it’s all still here under the concrete’
This relationship between the present and the (sometimes legendary) past in Bangkok is, I feel, the core of the anthology and one which Truslow strives to present to the reader in all its complexity. At times though, she is in danger of leaving the reader at shore so familiar is she with her material. This is a problem that could be easily resolved by a few more introductory sentences to tame the pile-up of unfamiliar descriptions.
Mixed in with these set pieces, Truslow also includes day/night fragments, impressions of the city as the sun rises or sets. These are my favourite sections for letting me ‘live’ the city. Truslow has a magic turn of phrase, she writes in Morning #1 for instance: ‘yesterday’s overheated engines are cold, sleeping or just warmed up’. She acts as a people magpie picking out the idiosyncrasies of individuals to capture a place: ‘Thai men drinking icy water, one flipping through a magazine of muscle-rippling guys in tight underpants’.
Truslow’s Bangkok comes across in this work as a culturally rich, touristy, buzzing, cosmopolitan, ghost-infested and endlessly fascinating city. In her hands, even a bus journey becomes extraordinary. It is difficult to review a work that is still rather exclusive, but if the above words attract you in any way let me point you to the next best thing: Truslow’s flâneur blog of Bangkok from which much of the writing in the booklet comes from.
Tori Truslow also blogs and writes about fiction here