An outsider looking in

Philip Cornwel-Smith has been a regular fixture on the Bangkok art-lit scene for nearly 20 years. The Briton has, like so many others before and after him, adopted this city of vagabond elephants and inclement monsoon as his home, after starting out as editor of Bangkok Metro magazine, then as a freelancer for Time Out, and later as a full-fledged author who's drawn on extensively from his street-level exploration of this capital city.

Cornwel-Smith's Very Thai, an observant book on the malleable, ever-growing meaning of "Thai culture", remains one of the most valuable pieces of writing about Thailand by non-Thais. He's been working on the sequel of the book for a few year, and we all wish it would come out very soon.

This week the photographic exhibition by Cornwel-Smith, also called "Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture" has gone up outside CentralWorld, and it features 122 photographs on 72 panels, each two metres long (with English and Thai captions). Let's hope rain will show some mercy on us this month so we all can get out and see his pictures.

_ Kong Rithdee

What are you reading?

Many at once, including The Trouser People by Andrew Marshall, Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga, and books on writing by Eric Maisel and Roy Peter Clark.

What is the book you've always wanted to read but still haven't?

Most classic fiction, especially Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I haven't read it because I seem to have lost the time! Most of my reading is non-fiction. Novels feel like a busman's holiday.

Is there a book you've read but never managed to finish?

Lots, from Lord of the Rings aged 12, to Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk.

Have you ever judged a book by its cover _ and then bought it?

Many. I love good design and may buy a book for its quality as a thing. As they say: "Books do furnish a room." The cover drew me to The Cement Garden by Ian McEwen, which turned out to a great read.

Roughly, at home how many books have you bought that you haven't started reading?

Dozens. Many are references on Thailand unlikely to be reprinted, so I get them just in case.

You're an author of a book about Thailand, what is your most favourite literature about Thailand written by non-Thai?

The most evocative novelists to me are John Burdett, Lawrence Osborne and Paolo Bacigalupi. For non-fiction, Jerry Hopkins' essays and Bangkok Found by Alex Kerr.