By Evan Serpick
Updated July 26, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Karl Taro Greenfeld’s jaunty, intimate narrative style in ”Standard Deviations: Growing Up and Coming Down in the New Asia,” makes it easy to imagine the Goa raves, Jakarta brothels, and Bangkok slums he visited in his postcollege years. It’s not as easy to imagine that Greenfeld — who spills titillating tales of sex with cross-dressing prostitutes, stolen religious icons, and encounters with every drug under the hot Asian sun — has since matured into the 37-year-old editor of Time Asia. His journalistic credentials turn up in tracts on the Asian economic boom and political unrest in Indonesia, but the most compelling prose surfaces amid the seedy, fleshy grist.