Author - John Coyne

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Our Most Famous & Infamous RPCV: Marjorie Michalmore (Nigeria)
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“Rent Check” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)
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“Breaking the Rules: When to Ignore Good Advice“ by Lenore Myka (Romania)
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A Writer Writes — “House Building On Rapa Nui” by Michael Beede (Peru)
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A Writer Writes — about BOWING TO ELEPHANTS by Bonnie Lee Black (Gabon)
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A Writer Writes — “Why Trees Aren’t Just Colorful” by Roger K. Lewis (Tunisia)
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Talking Tlayudas and Traffic With Paul Theroux (Malawi)
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Review–On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey by Paul Theroux (Malawi)
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“Justice for Pidgie D’Allessio” by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon)
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Review — HONOLULU DRAGON by Joseph Theroux (Samoa)

Our Most Famous & Infamous RPCV: Marjorie Michalmore (Nigeria)

In Alana DeJoseph (Mali 1992–94) wonderful new documentary on the Peace Corps–A Towering Task — there is a segment on Marjorie Michelmore “postcard incident” in Nigeria. For those RPCVs who don’t know about the ‘postcard’, here is some background information that I have published over the years. Note: JC     Marjorie Michelmore was a twenty-three-year-old magna cum laude graduate of Smith College when she became one of the first people to apply in 1961 to the new Peace Corps.. She was an attractive, funny, and smart woman who was selected to go to Nigeria. After seven weeks of training at Harvard, her group flew to Nigeria. There she was to complete the second phase of teacher training at University College at Ibadan, fifty miles north of the capital of Lagos. By all accounts, she was an outstanding Trainee. Then on the evening of October 13, 1961, she wrote a postcard to a . . .

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“Rent Check” by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay)

  Rent Check by Mark Jacobs (Paraguay 1978-80) evergreen magazine • The question was did Janelle fuck Old Ray Taylor so they got the house. Grace drew a quick picture mental picture of herself, the sticks and circles of her that moment. On her knees next to the bathtub, kneecaps aching where they touched the tile floor. Washing Meadow’s hair because something was wrong with her granddaughter, Meadow always forgot where she was so forgot what came next, for example rinse the soap out. On the toilet seat, Grace’s pocketbook. In the pocketbook, a pack of L&M. Against Grace’s better judgment it was December, but so far she was keeping November’s promise not to smoke inside. She was asking herself did her daughter fuck the owner of the house Grace was living but now not smoking in. And how come it mattered so goddamn much. Ha! If she could answer . . .

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“Breaking the Rules: When to Ignore Good Advice“ by Lenore Myka (Romania)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Marnie Mueller (Ecuador 1963-65)     Breaking the Rules: When to Ignore Good Advice by Lenore Myka (Romania 1994-96) THE LITERARY LIFE Poets &Writers September/October 2018 • I waved the white flag, surrendering. The novel I had developed a relationship with—had spent time and resources and emotional energy on—had built a fortress around itself, locking me out. It did not want me. But more to the point, I did not want it. We were through. As in any dysfunctional relationship, it had taken me a long time to get to this point. Six years, to be exact. Four different drafts, a total of more than a thousand pages, which did not include the dozens of index cards, the journals and notebooks filled with ideas and research and mind-maps; the hundreds of dollars spent on out-of-print books and DVDs and even a poster featuring a . . .

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A Writer Writes — “House Building On Rapa Nui” by Michael Beede (Peru)

  House Building On Rapa Nui By Michael Beede (Peru 1963–65; Venezuela (1968–70) • Rapa Nui, Te Pito Te Henua,The Navel of The World, Isla de Pascua, Easter Island. These are a few of the names of this enigmatic 65 square mile speck of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For centuries it has irresistibly drawn the imaginations and souls of adventurers and dreamers to its rocky shores. I was one who fell under the magical spell of Rapa Nui. When Noemi, my partner, her four-year-old son, Ali, and I returned to Rapa Nui in 1974, the Islanders greeted us as rich and conquering heroes. When that did not turn out to be the case, the welcome began to wear thin. Locals then saw us as poor Pascuenses, bums, creatures lower than homeless beggars. In Hanga Roa, the Island’s only village, we shuffled from relatives and friends to . . .

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A Writer Writes — about BOWING TO ELEPHANTS by Bonnie Lee Black (Gabon)

    Bowing To Elephants Bonnie Lee Black (Gabon 1996-98) • The difference between an autobiography and a memoir, I used to tell my students, has everything to do with a couple of prepositions: of and from. An autobiography is the story of a life — usually the life of a rich and famous person — written by that person (or his or her ghost writer). Whereas a memoir is a story (or stories) from the life of a more-or-less ordinary person. A famous person can begin her autobiography at the very beginning (I was born in the dead of winter in a one-room cabin with no heat or running water in the hills of Appalachia, let’s say), and the reader will stick with it because all the while in the back of that reader’s mind there’ll be the nagging question: How in the world did this person ever get to be rich and famous?! The memoirist, on . . .

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A Writer Writes — “Why Trees Aren’t Just Colorful” by Roger K. Lewis (Tunisia)

  Why trees aren’t just colorful fall features for our region’s neighborhoods   by Roger K. Lewis (Tunisia 1964-66) President, Peace Corps Commemorative Foundation The Washington Post Oct. 25, 2019 • October’s changing leaf colors, along with intrusive leaf-blower noise, are signals every year that fall is definitely upon us and winter will be arriving in a few weeks. But these sights and sounds also remind us how wonderfully verdant the nation’s capital is. We are quite fortunate. Few cities match metropolitan Washington’s extraordinary amount of tree-covered, vegetated open space. Thousands of acres of interconnected, stream-valley parks thread around and through the region, which encompasses countless neighborhood public parks varying greatly in size, shape, topography, flora and function. Complementing our urban and suburban public parkland are hundreds of thousands of private outdoor spaces — front yards, backyards, courtyards — all contributing in different ways to the fall color display. Washington is . . .

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Talking Tlayudas and Traffic With Paul Theroux (Malawi)

Grub Street By Joshua David Stein “I’m writing now because through the weird journey of my life I’ve gotten to know Paul and Sheila Theroux.” That’s how writer Joshua David Stein told me that he wanted to interview Paul, the famed travel author. When I reminded Stein that Grub Street is a food site, he assured me that wouldn’t be a problem. In the end, he was right, because the conversation that the two had, over lunch at the very good Mexican restaurant Oxomoco, was not only about food, but also about its ability to, with surprising efficiency, reveal something deeper about the people eating it. — Alan Sytsma, editor, Grub Street Talking Tlayudas and Traffic With Paul Theroux By Joshua David Stein It’s a blustery October day in Greenpoint, and when Paul Theroux — traveler of great repute, climber of mountains and dweller of plains — steps out from his . . .

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Review–On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey by Paul Theroux (Malawi)

On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey By Paul Theroux (Malawi 1963-65) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 448 pages October  2019     Reviewed by Mark D. Walker  (Guatemala 1971-73) I’ve travelled much of the world over the last forty years, thanks to Paul Theroux’s many books, which now number 56. I was especially eager to read this book since I’ve made the journey through Mexico several times with my wife in a car (VW bug) and a pickup truck, so I was familiar with some of the challenges and dangers, not to mention adventures the author would encounter. The “Godfather of Travel Writing” follows his own critique for what makes a superior travel book, “not just a report of a journey, but a memoir, an autobiography, a confession, a foray in South America, a topography and history, a travel narrative, with observations of books, music, and life in general; in . . .

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“Justice for Pidgie D’Allessio” by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon)

  Justice for Pidgie D’Allessio by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith (Cameroon 1965–67)   I thought I’d finished writing, Girls of Tender Age, ten years ago. Then an email appeared in my inbox with a subject line so unexpected, so shocking, really, that it took me a few minutes to dare touch my fingers to the keyboard. First I went and poured a second cup of coffee, took a couple of gulps, sat down at my desk again and opened the message. The story was not over. A new ending was out there, a miserable one. I bought a new notebook and a box of Pilot G-2s, #10, Bold; I write all my first drafts in longhand. The memoir centered on the murder of Irene Fiederowicz in Hartford, Connecticut. Irene was my friend, my neighbor, and my classmate. The last time I saw her was the day we went on our field trip . . .

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Review — HONOLULU DRAGON by Joseph Theroux (Samoa)

    Honolulu Dragon by Joseph Theroux (Samoa 1975–78) Kilauea Publications August 2019 329 pages $12.00 (paperback), $2.99 (Kindle)   Reviewed by Richard Lipez (Ethiopia 1962-64) • I’ve always been grateful that the Peace Corps sent me to Ethiopia with its culture of great richness and charm. But after reading Joseph Theroux’s engaging novel set in the South Pacific, I’m almost envious of his having landed in Samoa in 1975. His obvious love of the easy-in-the-islands way of life is infectious — not that Theroux shies away from the political and social turbulence that’s part of the region’s checkered history. It’s just like Ethiopia in that regard, and also of course the United States of America. Honolulu Dragon is the third in Theroux’s series featuring Robert Louis Stevenson and his actual step-son Lloyd Osbourne in which the two writers solve crimes. Other real-life characters show up in this tale of Honolulu . . .

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