Literary Type

    George Packer (Togo 1982-83) has published two long “Letters From” in the New Yorker within the last month. In the November 24th issue is a long and insightful piece entitled, “War After the War” which is based on a month’s stay in Baghdad.
         Packer’s “Letter from Ivory Coast” was published in the November 3rd issue. That essay draws on his Peace Corps experience in Togo and a visit to the Ivory Coast. “Gangsta War” is about the young fighters in Abidjan who take the lead from American pop culture.
         Packer is the editor of an upcoming book of essays, The Fight Is for Democracy: Winning the War of Ideas in America and the World which will be published in August of 2004.

    Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965-67) reports in that her book Love Her Madly is on the short list nominated for the best fiction award by the Connecticut Center for the Book. According to Mary-Ann, “90% of all writers live in Connecticut so I am in there with the likes of Philip Roth.” The award ceremony is in November and Mary-Ann is certainly she will not win. Her Poppy Rice books, which are now being marketed as “thrillers,” has recently been sold to Kensington Books and Love Her Madly will come out in paperback next May.

    Stanley Meisler (PW/Staff 1962–65) an early evaluator for the agency who became the foreign correspondent in Africa for the Los Angeles Times, and then covered the U.N. and the State Department for the Los Angeles Times during the 1990s reviewed Madeleine Albright’s memoir of her Clinton years in the Sunday, September 28th issue of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Meisler has a mixed view of Albright’s career as U.N. Ambassador and Secretary of State. His view of her memoir is just as mixed. As he writes in his review, “On the whole — though there are exasperating omissions and distortions, though she is sometimes disingenuous and always self-serving — it is a persuasive defense.”

    David Taylor’s (Mauritania 1983–85) new book Hunting Sang: Ginseng’s Odyssey traces, in mock-epic fashion, a plant’s journey from America to China. Over the centuries, ginseng has caused the rise of empires, made and broken countless fortunes, promised health to kings, and led others to prison and death. In a single season, Taylor tracks American ginseng from the forests of Appalachia, across landscapes of ambition and nostalgia, to the Midwest and on to China. Along the way he finds people who reveal ginseng’s role in Native American history, international crime, high cuisine, complementary medicine, rural development, the fur trade, continental drift theory, human trafficking, and ecological recovery. Taylor has made award-winning documentaries for The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and National Geographic. His short stories have appeared in various literary reviews and received a Literary Arts Film Award from Web Del Sol. Algonquin Press will publish Hunting Sang in 2004.

    The Peace Corps Public Affairs Specialist, Bartel (Bart) Kendrick (PC/NY 2002–  ) is looking for RPCV writers who are teaching in community colleges, colleges, and universities in the New York region (New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). He is also seeking working journalists in the same region in an effort to build a network of contacts. If interested in being included, contact Bart at bkendrick@peacecorps.gov.

    When Joe Kovacs (Sri Lanka 1997–98) took a leave of absence from his graduate studies to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sri Lanka, he hoped he hadn’t made a big mistake. But not long after arriving, he discovered that Leonard Woolf, the future husband of literary giantess Virginia, had left academia to serve as a British civil servant in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) for seven years in the early 1900s. Leonard Woolf went on to become a writer, an editor and a life-long anti-imperialist and Joe, delving into his story, was comforted by certain parallels in their lives that soon grew apparent. Read about it online at Literary Traveler.
         Joe has recently won a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities to research a novel about U.S.-Mexican border issues in southern Arizona.

    The Best American Travel Writing 2003, edited by Ian Frazier, has two pieces by RPCVs. Peter Chilson’s (Niger 1985–87) “The Road from Abalak,” was originally published in The American Scholar, and Tom Bissell’s (Uzbekistan 1996–97) “ Eternal Winter” about the death of the Aral Sea, was in Harper’s.

    Our most famous right-wing RPCV, Charles Murray (Thailand 1965–67), is back with a new book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950. He was profiled in the New York Times Arts & Ideas section on Saturday, October 25 in an article entitled, “A Cultural Scorecard Says West Is Ahead,” written by Emily Eakin.
         Murray is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington ring-wing think tank. Murray is the author of Losing Ground, which argued that social programs do more harm than good, and then, with Richard J. Herrnstein, of The Bell Curve, which theorized a genetic basis for class and IQ differences between blacks and whites. His new book attempts to demonstrate, through the use of basic statistical methods such as regression analysis, that Europeans have overwhelmingly dominated accomplishment in the arts and sciences since about 1400. Murray also goes onto say that the influence of Europe is on the decline, “In another few hundred years, books will probably be exploring the reasons why some completely different part of the world became the locus of great human accomplishment.” The New York Times article mentions that Murray is a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand who was married for 14 years to a Thai Buddhist.

    Volunteer Tales: Experiences of Working Abroad published by the British publishing company Lutterworth Press, and edited by Savita Bailur and Helen Rana, contains eight short essays by RPCV writers. The RPCV writers in the new collection are:
         Valerie Broadwell (Morocco 1981–83)
         Kenneth Carano (Suriname 1998–00)
         George Chinnery (Romania 1998–2000)
         Roderick Jones (Nicaragua 1992–96)
         Paul Karrer (Western Samoa 1978–80)
         Kathleen M. Moore (Ethiopia 1965–67)
         Gina Perfetto (Ethiopia 1997–99)
         Susan Rosenfeld (Senegal 1977–81)
         The editors are collecting material for a second edition. For more imformation contact the editors and publisher at: publishing@lutterworth.com.

    Hobgoblin, a novel written by John Coyne (Ethiopia 1962–64) was recently optioned by a Canadian film company.

    Karl Luntta (Botswana 1978–80) is interviewed in the Fall â03 issue of Cubstone INK, the newsletter of Curbstone Press. Curbstone published Luntta’s novel Know It by Heart last June.