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Literary Type

Tony D’Souza’s (Cote D’Ivoire 2000–02, Madagascar 2002–03) forthcoming Whiteman was named by The Wall Street Journal as “One of the most anticipated books of 2006.” Kirkus gave it a starred review. A great review of the book also appeared in the January 23 issue of Publishers Weekly. Among other comments, the reviewer writes, “the real surprise of the novel is its fearless treatment of Jack’s sexual relationships with local women.”
     Tony also has a 3500-word non-fiction piece in WorldView Magazine [Vol 19 No 1, the Winter issue] about the war in Cote D’Ivoire.

The New York Times Op-Ed page on December 15, 2005 carried a long editorial by Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963–65) on aid to Africa entitled “The Rock Star’s Burden” where Theroux lambastes the likes of Bono and Bill Gates, and all the western nations for flooding Africa with money. On the 19th there were five letters to the editors including one from Richard Hass (Ethiopia 1967–69) who is the co-founder of the Fistula Foundation. Hass writes that “Mr. Theroux is right as far as he goes, but I believe the solution is much more complicated.”

The December 12th issue of Publishers Weekly carried a positive review of Ellen Urbani Hiltebrand’s (Guatemala 1991—93) memoir When I was Elena due out in February. Writes PW, “Hiltebrand’s travelogue is intercut with the quietly powerful life stories of the native women she befriends, and the tectonic shifts in perspective create a rich mosaic of culture and character.” The book was also named BookSense Notable Selection for March 2006 — no small achievement.
     Interestingly, the publisher, Permanent Press, does not say that Ellen was a PCV in Guatemala, and the only mention of the agency in buried in Hiltebrand’s text.
     Check out Ellen’s website at: www.ellenurbanihiltebrand.com.

Our own “friendly agent,” Liza Dawson is quoted in an article on ex-publishers who become literary agents in the December 20, 2005 New York Times. Liza who left her job as the executive editor at Putnam nine years ago to start her own literary agency is quoted as saying, “You can only do the kind of books that that publisher is good at.” While at Putnam, she focused on hardcover commercial fiction, but the publishing house “was not necessarily eager for me to nurture my interest in non-fiction or business books.” Now, Liza added, “as an agent, I never have to give those books up.” [And, we hope, she doesn’t give up on Peace Corps books!]

in medias res = in or into the middle of a sequence of events

New York Magazine selected George Packer (Togo 1982-83) as one of their New Yorkers of the Year for his book The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq. In citing him, they wrote, “George Packer, who was an initial supporter of the invasion, delivered such a narrative way ahead of schedule. This in medias res arrival makes the book all the more powerful — it channels the reader’s inchoate anger at events into a sharp critique. Packer weaves sensitive political history and Technicolor on-the-ground reportage. Most poignantly, he manages to conjure the best intentions that culminated in this tragedy. They were, after all, his original intentions, too.”

Among the many fine reviews that Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965–67) is receiving was the one in the Sunday section of the New York Times on January 22, 2006. At one point in her review Julia Scheeres imagines what Mary-Ann is like and writes, “The reader pictures her as the wisecracking patron on the next bar stool, nursing a tumbler of bourbon and talking out of the side of her mouth. Smith’s deadpan delivery and comedic timing — you can almost feel her pausing dramatically to take another sip before delivering a punch line — give the narrative spark.”

Cliff Garstang (Korea 1976–77) published a short story, “Heading for Home,” in the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of The Baltimore Review. Another story “Flood, 1978” has been nominated for a 2006 Pushcart Prize.

The Night of the Lunar Eclipse, a new collection of poems by Margaret Szumowski (Zaire 1973–74, Ethiopia 1974–75), has just been published by Tupelo Press an independent literary press (www.tupelopress.org). Szumowski has published three collections of poetry, including I Want This World in 2001, winner that year of the Peace Corps Writers’ Award for poetry. Margaret is the Professor of Writing at Springfield Technical Community College where in 2001 she was honored with the Andrew Scibelli Chair for excellence in teaching.

In the Sunday, December 4, 2005, Washington Post, Colman McCarthy reviewed Golfing With God: A Novel of Heaven and Earth by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979-80). McCarthy, a good friend of the Peace Corps, and fine golfer — as well as a fine writer — said of Merullo’s book, “Merullo ranks a place in current golf literature. He knows the game,” as he compares the novel with the best of Fitzgerald, Updike, J.D. Powers, and John O’Hara.

An excerpt from Jamy Bond’s (Bulgaria 1995–96) forthcoming memoir, Mouths Full of Love, about the death of her younger sister as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique will be in the February issue of The Sun Magazine. Another excerpt will appear in the March issue of Practice Journal. You can also read an excerpt of Mouths Full of Love at Jamy's website jamybond.com.
     A short story by Jamy, “The Country Between Us,” was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s recent Short Story Award for New Writers.

“The Trouble with Uzbekistan” by Joshua Abrams (Kazakhstan 1996-98) is his latest essay on — as he says — “my series of anti-Uzbekistan diatribes.” You can find it at this address:nthposition.com/
thetroublewithuzbekistan.php
. The nth position is a free online magazine/ezine with politics & opinion, travel writing, fiction & poetry, reviews & interviews, and some high weirdness, as they say. It is worth checking it out at: nthposition.com.

On May 1, 2006 HarpersCollins will publish Oracle Bones: A Journey between China’s Past and Present by Peter Hessler (China 1996–98) who has lived in China for the last decade and is the author of River Town, which is about his tour as a PCV. Oracle Bones is the story of modern-day China and its growing links to the Western world. The title “Oracle Bones” refers to the earliest known writing in East Asia, inscriptions from the Shang dynasty. In this book, Peter looks at China through a kaleidoscopic lens of history, archeology, language, and contemporary culture and follows the trajectories of four different individuals — from a migrant factory worker to one of the most esteemed scholars of his age. When the book is published, Peter will be making a 6-city speaking tour: Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Once we have his dates in these cities, we’ll post them on the site.
Clearing Customs by Martha Egan (Venezuela 1967–69) has been named 2005 Fiction Book of the Year by Online Review of Books. Online said: “Clearing Customs is a sinister, yet amusing tale of an ex-hippie owner of a small, struggling Latin American imports store who joins with her friends to fight corrupt customs officials whose harassment threatens to put her out of business — Well written, compelling.”
     Online Review of Books & Current Affairs reviews books published by mainstream publishers as well as small and independent presses. It also publish essays, interviews, and news stories with a progressive viewpoint.
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