Living on the Edge: A Collection of Short Fiction by Peace Corps Writers

Overview

Living on the Edge contains seventeen remarkable stories by writers who served in the Peace Corps, including well-known authors such as John Coyne, John Givens, Norman Rush and Paul Theroux, as well as work by exciting emerging authors like Mark Jacobs and Marnie Mueller. All these stories reflect the impact the Peace Corps experience had on former volunteers who write across cultures in the literary tradition of Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, and Paul Bowles. Each author has included a commentary on how he or...

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Overview

Living on the Edge contains seventeen remarkable stories by writers who served in the Peace Corps, including well-known authors such as John Coyne, John Givens, Norman Rush and Paul Theroux, as well as work by exciting emerging authors like Mark Jacobs and Marnie Mueller. All these stories reflect the impact the Peace Corps experience had on former volunteers who write across cultures in the literary tradition of Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, and Paul Bowles. Each author has included a commentary on how he or she came to write the anthologized story.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"For anyone interested in the US and its place in the world, this collection will provide a good picture of diplomacy on a personal scale."

Kirkus Reviews

"In this unique short story collection . . . myriad facets of Peace Corps life and the culture of diverse lands are examined . . . [the authors] get to the heart of the human endeavor as they write about language, food, custom, social and familial politics, racial differences, sexual decorum, violence and disease as well as instances of deep confusion and transcendent communion."

—Donna Seaman, ALA Booklist

"A wonderful collection of stories that take you from Africa to South America to Asia while probing important issues of place, identity, and tension in a world grown closer but still suffering from a huge gap between have and have-not nations . . . A terrific idea; highly recommended wherever good literature is read."

—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Seventeen authors--some celebrated--who served in the Peace Corps at various times over the last three decades offer, in these unusual, enlightening tales, a startling look into the mostly Third World locales they grew to know. The authors' backgrounds and subject matter varies widely, though the themes most often converge in the clash between Western and native cultural ways. Paul Theroux, who served in Malawi in 1963, starts off the collection with the magnificently taut "White Lies," about a horrific parasitic rash set upon a philandering foreigner by his scorned African lover. Technical writer Leslie Simmonds Ekstom's (Nigeria, 1963-65) "On Sunday There Might Be Americans" is a powerfully imagined narrative about an aboriginal boy's scrounging for subsistence in the shadow of rich white interlopers. Marnie Mueller (Ecuador, 1963-65), an NBA winner for her novel Green Fires, explores in her story "Exile" the possibility of cross-cultural romance between an exiled Argentine writer and an American political activist living in Mexico City. Each short fiction is introduced by the author's explanation, "How I Came to Write This Story," often based on true experience or impression, followed by a brief biography. While these details are interesting, at times they may dilute the enjoyment of the stories as vivid creations in their own right. Other authors represented include editor Coyne (Ethiopia, 1962-64), who founded a newsletter for and about Peace Corps writers, and novelist Norman Rush (Botswana, 1978-1993). (Apr.)
Library Journal
Sick and tired of the lull in contemporary fiction today, with the same old stories told over and over with the same old characters and settings and far too much focused narcissistically on the petty crises of America's overexposed middle class? Then pick up this anthology, a wonderful collection of stories that take you from Africa to South America to Asia while probing important issues of place, identity, and tension in a world grown closer but still suffering from a huge gap between have and have-not nations. And who better to write such stories than Peace Corps volunteers, bright and idealistic Americans who have gone abroad and come back with radically adjusted vision? The stories range widely, from Paul Theroux's "White Lies," a stinging story of one young man's comeuppance in Africa, to Kathleen Coskran's "Sun," which reveals the dangers inherent in reaching across the cultural divide, to Terry Marshall's witty "American Model," which pokes fun at naive American attitudes about "natives." There doesn't seem to be a clunker in the bunch. A terrific idea; highly recommended wherever good literature is read.--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An anthology of short fiction written by Peace Corps veterans, edited by an old Peace Corps hand who has, since his days in Ethiopia as an early volunteer, gone on to publish eight novels of his own (Child of Shadows, 1990, etc.). The contributors vary widely in age and experience, from writers as well-known as Paul Theroux (who served in Malawi in 1963) to people who have never published fiction before. Unsurprisingly, most of the action is set in the countries where the authors worked; as Coyne explains, volunteers typically "unpack their belongings, they settle down, they set about to do a job. And they write." Theroux's story ("White Lies") is based on his experiences in Africa, as are a large number of others, but there are portraits of Asia and Latin America as well. Many stories concern the alienation that Americans living abroad for a long time feel both for their host countries and the homes they eventually return to—with difficulty. Others (such as "On Sunday There Might Be Americans" by Leslie Ekstrom and "American Model" by Terry Marshall) portray the sometimes difficult relations between volunteers and natives of the countries in which they serve. For anyone interested in the US and its place in the world, this collection will provide a good picture of diplomacy on a personal scale. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781880684573
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,289,979
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


John Coyne was with the first group of Volunteers to Ethiopia and taught English in Addis Ababa. Later he was an Associate Peace Corps Director in Ethiopia and the Regional Manager of the New York Peace Corps Office. He has published eight novels and edited, among other books, Going Up Country: Travel Essays by Peace Corps Writers. In 1989 he founded RPCV Writers & Readers, a newsletter for and about Peace Corps volunteers.
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Table of Contents


Preface
"White Lies" by Paul Theroux
"Exile" by Marnie Mueller
"The Heroes of Our Own Stories" by Mark Brazaitis
"Sun" by Kathleen Coskran
"Easy in the Islands" by Bob Shacochis
"The Water-Girl" by George Packer
"The Guide" by Melanie Summer
"On the Wheel of Wandering-on" by John Givens
"On Sunday There Might Be Americans" by Leslie Simmonds Ekstrom
"The Egg Queen Rises" by Mark Jacobs
"Mad Dogs" by Eileen Drew
"The Ones Left Behind" by Joan Richter
"A Virgin Twice" by Karl Luntta
"Ma Kamanda's Latrine" by Marla Kay Houghteling
"American Model" by Terry Marshall
"Snow Man" by John Coyne
"Alone In Africa" by Norman Rush
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