Literary Type — November 2005

The New York Times Book Section on Sunday, October 30, 2005, featured (in a very big way) books by two RPCVs. George Packers (Togo 1962–64) book on Iraq, The Assassins’ Gate was reviewed by Fareed Zakaria, who wrote, “Packer, who was in favor of the war, reserves judgment and commentary in most of the book but finally cannot contain himself: ‘Swaddled in abstract ideas . . . indifferent to accountability,’ those in positions of highest responsibility for Iraq ‘turned a difficult undertaking into a needlessly deadly one,’ he writes. ‘ When things went wrong, they found other people to blame.”

Also reviewed in the issue was Karin Muller’s (Philippines 1987-89) Japanland, a book and National Geographic special. The Times reviewer writes, “Muller is brash, intrepid and more than a trifle wacky.” (Sounds like an RPCV to me.) Then adds, “Muller’s strength is her fresh eye. She watches as crowds in Osaka ‘waterfall’ down the station steps; when her hostess is annoyed, ‘Yukiko shoots me a look that would drop a cockroach in its trcks’”; and when Muller is thrown in a judo match, her ‘body hits the ground with a sound like a wet frog thrown against a piece of tile.’”

Elle Hungary, a member of the international family of Elle publications, presented its second year of Elle Literary Awards. Each month a different panel of 11 readers who had a month to read 6 books — 3 fiction and 3 non-fiction, chose the best book in both categories. In August 2005 Peter Hessler’s (China 1996–98) book, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze was selected as the “book of the month” in the non-fiction category, and then received the best book of the year in the non-fiction category.
     Peter published a short piece in The Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker in the December 5, 2005 issue on the Hongqiao Market in southern Beijing which has become a new tourist attraction for visiting Westerners. Hessler, who lives in Beijing, writes that the market has replaced the Great Wall as the “obligatory stop on any state visit to the People’s Republic.” Hessler’s next book Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present will be published next spring.

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s (Cameroon 1965–67) memoir, Girls of Tender Age (Free Press), will be available in December and Mary-Ann will have a reading at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on Upper West Side (2289 Broadway and 82nd St.), NYC, on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 7:30 PM.
     The memoir is the Borders Original Voices selection for January and February. Her Peace Corps service gets a couple of paragraphs in this memoir.
     Amazon.com has selected Girls of Tender Age as one of the top memoirs of 2005. Her book is about the recovery of repressed memories of a 1953 murder by a serial killer of an 11-year-old friend and neighbor in a blue-collar enclave in Hartford, Connecticut. In recalling her childhood, Mary-Ann describes her upbringing in a fractured family whose existence centered on placating her older brother, Tyler, an autistic boy who couldn’t bear sounds of any kind — crying, laughing, sneezing, dog barking.

Moon Handbooks Belize by Joshua Berman (Nicaragua 1998-2000) and Chicki Mallan just won a Lowell Thomas Travel Award (Bronze) in the Best Guidebook Category.
     The Second Edition of Moon Handbooks Nicaragua that Joshua did with Randy Wood (Nicaragua 1998-2000) is now in bookstores.
     Joshua is currently documenting his year-long, round-the-world honeymoon on his Tranquilo Traveler blog. He invites you to visit the site and read about his time volunteering on Indian, tea gardens or trekking in Pakistan’s breathtaking Hindu Kush.

John Flynn (Moldova 1993–95) has short stories due out this winter and spring — current edition of The Paterson Review, #34 (available at bookstores); The Powhatan Review; eclips.us (online), a Canadian e-zine; Plumb Biscuit (online), the e-zine of the New York Writers Coalition; and The Redwood Coast Review. His latest story, Desire Equals Rain,” about a young traveler in Amsterdam, is available online at www.verbsap.com.

Imagine a House by Angela Gustafson (Dominican Republic 1994–96) was featured in the October 2005 issue of Nick Jr. Family Magazine. Designed as a two-page spread, an excerpt of the book was a pull out section for kids.

In her feature article, The Dark Side of Paris, in Glimpse magazine, (www.glimpseabroad.org) writer Valerie Broadwell (Morocco 1981–83) chronicles her tour of subterranean Paris with French urban explorers. The article was excerpted from Broadwell’s book on the subject, City of Lights, City of Dark that will be published in the spring.

Paul Karrer (Western Samoa 1978–80), will have an article published in The San Francisco Chronicle on December 11, 2005. His story “Serprise Package From Skippy,” and the photo that goes with it, Paul writes, “is about the Korean war, his daughter’s request for a dog, and a disturbing old photo of bombs that finally makes terrible sense.”

Karen Beatty’s (Thailand 1968-70) essay “In Blizzard Mode” is a brief rumination on a unique aspect of life in Manhattan that appears in Barbaric Yawp Volume 9, No.3 (September 2005), a literary quarterly edited by John and Nancy Berbrich and named for the Walt Whitman phrase.

A new short story by Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963–65) entitled “The Best Year Of My Life” appeared in the November 14, 2005 issue of The New Yorker.

A paper by Aliona Gibson (South Africa 1999–01), part of her book on South Africa, has been selected to appear on the brand new website of the Museum of the African Diaspora entitled I’ve Known Rivers: The MOAD Stories Project. The website will go up the same time the museum opens on December 3, 2005. The story will be at www.iveknownrivers.org. Go to Movement Stories>“Bittersweet.”

     The museum is in San Francisco. Its web site is www.moadsf.org.

Karen Unger (Liberia 1977–80) has a story in the December 2005 issue of Chronogram — a literary/events monthly published in the mid and upper Hudson Valley (NY). Based on her experiences in Liberia, the piece, entitled “The Heart of the Cottonwood Tree,” can be read at the monthly’s site.