Response: November 2007

I googled Paul Theroux whose name stimulated a memory of my youth when I encountered it in the newspaper this evening. Is that the same writer who translated A Life Full of Holes? My mother taught English as a Second Language in the Oakland Public Schools. I might have been ten- or twelve-years old when she brought that book home, a gift from a student who said it told the story of his life. Well, it was Paul Bowles, not Theroux who had translated Driss ben Hamed Charhadi’s story.
     How facinating, then to read in David Espey’s article [at www.PeaceCorpsWriters.org] that a connection between Theroux and Bowles exists not just as an artifact of my imprecise memory and modern search wizzardry, but in fact, and that the Peace Corps and it’s product, the common experience of Morrocco, entwine the three.
     I, too, remember first-hand John Kennedy’s inspiring rhetoric, but never thought of myself as one who might participate in such adventures. The Peace Corps entered Paul Theroux’s life, shaped it, and never left. This chance encounter with David Espey’s account of Bowles and Theroux makes me conscious, once again, of that irresistable fascination for the exotic, that which is far away, not just in distance but culturally, observable, but beyond understanding, which, for some, once acquired remains just beyond awareness, emerging into full view at the slightest suggestion.
     Discoveries of Peace Corps writers have been rare, joyfull surprises. Through the wit of Geraldine Kennedy, Mike Tidwell, and others my parents and son have glimpsed, albeit from a distance, some of that experience which has set us on a different path and made us who we are. Your website may reduce the surprise element, but the more frequent joy will certainly compensate the loss — yes, please send me notices of new issues.

Brian Baxley (El Salvador 1976–78)