Literary Type: November 2007

The November 26, 2007 issue of The New Yorker had two fine pieces by RPCVs writers. George Packer (Togo 1982–83) writes in The Talk of the Town what Republican candidates have to say about the war, and how they are driving themselves further to the Right.
     Peter Hessler (China 1996–98) is back with another “Letter From China,” this one on driving in The People’s Republic. Just reading it scares a person. For example, in 2004 the World Health Organization report found that China, while having only three per cent of the world’s vehicles, accounted for twenty-one per cent of its traffic fatalities. The piece is full of details, such as that headlights were banned in Beijing until the mid-eighties. It was only in 1983 when Chen Xitong, the mayor of Beijing, made a visit to New York and during a meeting with NYC’s mayor, Ed Koch, Peter writes, “Chen made a crucial observation: Manhattan drivers turn on their lights at night.” Chen went back to China and decreed that Beijing motorists do the same. Later Chen would end up in prison for corruption, but as Peter points out, “at least he did his part for traffic safety.”

In many recent publications — including this issue of our newsletter — were reviews of The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65). In The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, November 11, 2007) reviewer Walter Kirn writes, “Theroux’s new book of three novellas, The Elephanta Suite, is his attempt — brought off with mixed results but distinguished by worthy intentions and sturdy tradecraft — to display and explain contemporary India in all its swarming, seductive, anachronistic, disorienting dynamism.” In this issue, read John Woods (Ethiopia 1965–68) review and you decide.

John Flynn (Moldova 1993–95) has published the short story “The Size of Need” in Fifth Wednesday Journal. The story is about an aging salesmen of religious goods, and is set in a 20s-era lounge and eatery in a fictitious industrial city.

Mishelle Shepard (Czech Republic 1984–86) has written an article for the long-time-Peace-Corps-supporting publication Transitions Abroad about successful RPCVs. The article notes both RPCVs contribution to continued Peace Corps success as well as the influence of the Peace Corps experience on the returned volunteer.” Do read it.

Once again Peace Corps Writers co-sponsored — with the RPCVs of South Florida — a booth at the largest book fair in the U.S, the Miami Book Fair International from Friday November 9 to Sunday November 11. RPCV writers were offered an opportunity to sell and sign their books at the booth. Greg Zell (Nigeria 1962–64) of the Miami group was the booth chairman.

Next June Bloomsbury Press will publish Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex edited by Ellen Sussman. Along with 200 other writers, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965–67) has contributed an entry. She hesitates to say what her word is as Peace Corps Writers is a family publication.