Heinrich the hands-off winemaker: Blog post
Heinrich Grohe, proprietor of Heinrichshaus Vineyards and Winery near St. James, Mo., is one of the best winkemakers in the state and one of the most engaging. See my blog post with this video and still photos.
Desperate SOS: Writing for impact
The Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, Sept. 2, 2005
The plan for this page was to tell a big story entirely with display type, photos and captions. I wrote all the material for the Katrina portion of the page. There’s nothing new about the importance of headline and caption writing, but his display anticipates the writing priorities for the Web. Online readers respond to language that gets to the point quickly with strong, memorable words that drive them deeper into the story.
The Precarious Limb: Fiction
The River Oak Review, Winter 2000 / Spring 2001
“When it falls, I’ll rent a chain saw and cut it into firewood.”
“A chain saw? You’d decapitate yourself!” She strode to the twinned maples and positioned herself beneath the precarious limb. She looked up, spread her arms, then looked over to Phil. “How would you feel if this branch crashed to earth and killed your dear, loving wife?” She fell to the ground and lay flat on her back, arms and legs akimbo, pretending to be dead.
“Oh, come on,” he said. She always did this to him, planted seeds of doubt.
Barbecued Husbands: Book review
The Antioch Review, Summer 2003
Barbecued Husbands by Betty Mindlin and indigenous storytellers, Verso, 310 pages, $21. The analysis of Amazonian myths by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss mesmerized me as an undergraduate in the 1970s — breaking down stories into syntactical chunks to demonstrate processes of the mind, assembling variants across cultures into a global-think metastructure. His arguments seemed as bizarre as his source material, which is also Mindlin’s: A woman’s head floats through the night stealing food while her body sleeps with her husband. Witnesses burn the body before the head returns, destroying a person and a marriage. Women have disastrous orgies with a tapir who leaps out of his skin in human form. Jealous men apply hot pepper to a woman’s dildo. Incest reorders the cosmos. Men eat women. Women eat men. A man roasts slices of himself. Dialogue explodes with remarks like, “Tell her you shaved by sticking your head in an anthole.” Mindlin seeks to preserve myths as told by members of six dying cultures. The effort involves multiple translations, from tribal languages to Portuguese to English. She enlivens the tales with frank language and provides a lucid analysis I wish I’d had as a student. The audience for this book is uncertain. It’s not exactly an academic work; Mindlin admits taking liberties with translations and making up some parts — clear violations of research methods. It’s too lurid for most coffee tables, too demanding for the beach. Without my background, I wouldn’t have picked it up. Although I usually can’t handle more than one three-page jolt at a time, I’m engaged on weirdly parallel planes: great tragedy presented in the violent playfulness of Saturday morning cartoons. The narratives and their implications suggest these tribal societies are no less messed up than ours. For me, the myths are better experienced than interpreted. — Ed Peaco
View a list of my book reviews, including the first 100 words or so of each one, followed by a pitch to purchase the entire review or start a free seven-day trial, courtesy of Highbeam Research.