July 20, 2003 - Amazon Books: Younger Than That Now: A Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Morocco by Michael Moran

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Younger Than That Now: A Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Morocco by Michael Moran

Younger Than That Now: A Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Morocco by Michael Moran

Younger Than That Now: A Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Morocco
by Michael Moran

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Edition: Paperback

Product Details

* Paperback: 143 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.50 x 8.50 x 5.50
* Publisher: Full Court Pr; (August 1994)
* ISBN: 096315978X
* Average Customer Review: Based on 3 reviews. Write a review.
* Amazon.com Sales Rank: 285,788

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Editorial Reviews

Excerpted from Younger Than That Now : A Peace Corps Volunteer Remembers Morocco by Michael Moran. Copyright © 1994. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved
In May, 1993, in Austin, Texas, I got together again with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, a man I hadn't seen since we'd left our sites in Morocco a decade previous. He'd held up well. Married, still trim, a successful environmental lawyer representing a prestigious firm in Chicago, with an impressive home in the suburbs, he has pursued a plodding, resume-building course over the last ten years.

I've followed a different course. Since I left the Peace Corps, I've stayed in teaching (which has its own rewards), first high school, then college, never remaining in any one place for more than a few years at a time. While he defined himself primarily through his work, I've drifted, sometimes sloppily, uncertain still about what lies ahead.

While in Austin, the two of us talked about all the self-serving reasons people in our group had used for entering the Peace Corps. Some had some sort of practical agenda in mind such as working for the State Department or gaining graduate degrees in Arab Studies, but most of us just yearned to leave home for a while. He admitted that he joined the Peace Corps because he couldn't find a decent job when he graduated from college in the early '80s. His experience in the Peace Corps then put him ahead of other law school applicants at the University of Michigan, and his two years abroad "serving others" gave him an edge over otherwise equal candidates. After graduation from Michigan Law School, he received many job interviews again because the Peace Corps experience made him stand out from the pack.

My explanation was typical of another type of volunteer. During my senior year in college, I was stumbling through the outside mall of North Texas State University in Denton, Texas, wondering what I would do with my B.A. degree in English, when I happened to spot the Peace Corps' recruiters' desk. Bored with school, I longed for some type of adventure, an escape from family and circumstance.

After I filled out the innumerable application forms--they required nine letters of reference and thorough medical and dental checks--I received word, not long after a perfunctory telephone interview with a Peace Corps official in Dallas that I had been accepted to teach English-as-Foreign Language in Morocco.

When I hung up the phone, I looked up Morocco on the map. North Africa. Islamic country colonized by France. Official language: Arabic. I went "over there" not knowing much more about the country than that.

It's fashionable to think the Peace Corps changes you in some profound, illuminating way. Instead, I believe the Corps just dramatizes the strengths and the flaws of your already-formed character. After my conversation with the Chicago lawyer, I decided I should try to describe my own experience as fully as possible, in the hope that those who might want to join the organization do so with a less misty-eyed view of the organization.

Told from a variety of perspectives, Younger Than That Now provides, in the first instance, a thematic, chronological account of my years in Morocco. Included also are eleven poems, each reflecting various "takes" on Morocco. Curiously, I couldn't find the energy or perhaps the necessary distance to write poems about Morocco while I was in the country. Yet when I got back, I couldn't stop the flood of words, a torrent that started with remembered feelings, usually ones of alienation or loneliness, or of remarkable images, Berbers chanting at sundown on an ocean cliff or a sunset which engulfed the entire sky, many of which I would turn into epiphanies of sorts.

While a memoir allows the writer to put events into perspective, narratives such as these also run the risk of boxing themselves in a glittering frame, so much so that the painted-over story loses its visceral impact. Fortunately, though, I learned recently about the existence of some twenty-one letters I'd written a longtime friend while I was overseas. Both of us have similar cultural and political interests, and we both share a self-absorbed flair for the dramatic. We used to talk constantly about pop music, and peppered our speech with references to song lyrics, particularly those of James Brown (JB). I've taken excerpts from the letters, including those sections which convey how I was feeling at the time so that readers can sense the immediacy of the experience. In the main, the letters reveal a critical, embarrassing self-consciousness typical of a twenty-two-year-old just out of college.

Finally, this book contains a profile of and interview with the expatriate musician and writer Paul Bowles, whose presence informs a large part of the narrative. For the most part, I consulted Michelle Green's wonderful and lively The Dream at the End of the World: Paul Bowles and the Literary Renegades in Tangier to gather more information about the elusive and enigmatic Bowles.

Customer Reviews
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Well written and captivating, April 30, 2001
Reviewer: An Amazon.com Customer from Charlottesville, VA United States
Michael Moran writes an interesting book about his two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco. Although this book doesn't actually tell you much about the Peace Corps itself (something that Moran actually doesn't seem too interested in, despite his two year commitment to the program), it does show you one way a Peace Corps experience can go -- which is to say, he pretty much turned the two years of "service" into an opportunity for him to travel and have some experiences worth turning into a book later on. What makes this book worth reading is that Moran writes well and does not try to spare himself. He presents himself as a real person who is, at alternating times, naive, determined, pretentious, sympathetic, arrogant, or young. But throughout it all, he is intelligent and honest as he portrays his struggles with Moroccan culture and with his own life, a self-consciousness ultimately represented through his relationship with a Scottish woman, Janet Graves.

A note: Don't bother to read the synopsis on the back of this book -- it isn't an accurate portrayal of the main themes or struggles of the book.

I do believe that other Peace Corps writers (such as Thomsen in "Living Poor") allow their experiences to change and influence them. As Moran says in his introduction (excerpted above in the Editorial Reviews), he doesn't think that the PC really changes people, but rather dramatizes their flaws. I believe this viewpoint of his is a result of the mentality he had going into the experience-- he seemed to have been dissatisfied and somewhat lonely in his American life, and was seeking an escape in a somewhat strict and self-righteous way that didn't allow for him to be changed by the culture around him. Ultimately, I'm sure he did change, as we are all changed by our experiences, but don't expect this book to be a telling of how those changes occur. It's simply an interesting read about two years in an expatriate's life, but its honesty and the adventures contained within it will be captivating nonetheless.

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Impressions of "Younger Than That Now", January 31, 2001
Reviewer: Clay Salmon from Denton, TX
I happened to come across this book in Austin, TX. The cover art was interesting and well done, very colorful, and it caught my eye. This guy has quite a tale about being in the Peace Corps in Morocco, among other things. There is a fascinating account of a meeting Mr. Moran had with Paul Bowles. He writes of personal experiences that were sincerely entertaining, and the man knows how to write. There is a sense of surrealism of this period of time, from 1981-1984 or so, that mirrors a similar mood of the early Reagan years. For a testament of the changing world around that time period, "Younger Than That Now" captures it as well as can be done. This book deserves to be read. It's just a great, all-around piece of writing.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Synopsis of Younger Than That Now, September 6, 1998
Reviewer: tmcmahon@eden.com from Austin, Texas
"Pure kif,"the legendary expatriate musician and writer Paul Bowles told me,"is the best thing in the world for a troubled mind." Younger Than That Now chronicles Michael Moran's hallucinatory trip through the labyrinths of Boujad,Morocco,where the Peace Corps volunteer lived and taught from 1981 to 1983. Part lyric,part fact,this book lays bare the inside workings of the Peace Corps and shows how each volunteer,no matter how estranged,struggles to make a difference.Through all the talk, repentance,and endless travel,one thing remains constant:Moran's experience is never PC.

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