The Intimate Other
In “Place of Rest,” Teddy Wilson decides he wants to die in Paraguay. In “Old School,” Rowen Royce makes the decision to live there. For both American characters, Paraguay has become the intimate other. It is a place to which they do not belong but are irresistibly drawn. The choice they make is both conscious and blind. They are impelled. Choosing a largely rural, semi-tropical, landlocked country with a history of problematic government calls for a leap of faith, but faith in what?
Neither Teddy nor Rowen would put it this way, but they trust in Paraguay’s otherness, which despite differences of temperament and experience they both find unspeakably beautiful. In an act of defiant identification they ally themselves with the dazzled streets of Asunción summer, the dizzying green sweep of countryside. The way dust hangs in the air over a dirt road down which cowboys have just driven a herd of Zebu cattle. The gleam of a knife slicing mandioca, or stabbing the throat of a duck. The secret homey aspect of a small fire in the dirt of a back patio before sunrise. The scarcely audible murmur of voices speaking in Guaraní around that fire. Here, Rowen and Teddy insist, is value, and they won’t be without it.
“Place of Rest” was first published in Volume LXX, No. 4 (Winter 2018) of The Hudson Review.
In “Old School” Rowen’s Paraguayan boyfriend Mango charges her with an unhealthy longing for what he calls the romance antiguo of revolutionary change, leftover from the 1960’s, before she was even born. Maybe. But maybe there is something more, something different, that both Rowen and Teddy are after. Call it another old-time romance. They are following their instincts, hunting the trackless path to an unfamiliar place where the new becomes the known.
“Old School,” which was just published in Evergreen Review
About Mark Jacobs
Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978-80) Mark was the winner of the 1998 Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas Award for his novel Stone Cowboy. A former Foreign Service officer, he has published more than 100 stories in magazines including The Atlantic, The Southern Humanities Review, The Idaho Review, The Southern Review, and The Kenyon Review. His story “How Birds Communicate” won the Iowa Review Fiction Prize in 1998. His five books include three novels and two collections of short stories.