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Educating Peter: How Anybody Can Become an…
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Educating Peter: How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert

by Lettie Teague

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(1) 2008 (1) 2010 (1) 88/1 (1) @ (1) adult non-fiction (1) alcohol (1) BC091612 (1) BN (1) food (1) GR (1) humor (1) library (1) non-fiction (1) read (1) to-read (1) wine (7)

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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

So unlike a lot of the books I do only micro-reviews of here, Lettie Teague's Educating Peter is not necessarily that bad from a pure writing standpoint, and in fact comes with an instantly compelling hook, which is why I picked it up in the first place: an executive editor and monthly columnist at Food & Wine magazine, Teague recently became obsessed with whether or not she had it in her to write an entire book-length guide to wine geared specifically towards people who know nothing about wines, so ended up getting her next-door neighbor to agree to be a long-term guinea pig, that neighbor by coincidence happening to be Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers. (See, I knew there was some neighborhood somewhere where all the rich magazine editors live!) The only problem with this premise, though, is that the answer to the above question is unfortunately "no;" although technically proficient when checked against an AP stylebook, exactly what you'd expect from a veteran magazine writer, Educating Peter just does not hold together very well as a full-length manuscript, and especially one that is specifically trying to teach a certain amount of erudite details about wine to someone who knows nothing about the subject.

Much too vague at points (I still don't understand what a Chateau is, and why the designation is so important to the French wine industry), much too specific at others (yes, I get it, drink white wine with fish, I freakin' get it), with a glossary that for some inexplicable reason is buried 23 pages in, the book has a bad habit of meandering lazily from one random subject to the next, not a tight collection of related essays like I was expecting but rather like sitting around a dinner party listening to Teague say, "Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention this one thing; and oh yeah, I forgot to mention this other thing too." Plus, the pained and forced film metaphors Teague tries to insert throughout the manuscript mostly fall on their face, and heavily distract the reader from the book's main point; plus, I have to admit, just the very notion of a fluffy nonfiction book with a 25-word title was enough to badly ruffle the feathers of this particular critic. (Here's a little tip, Scribner and all you other presses; if it takes a 25-word title just to explain a book's premise, maybe you need to rethink the very premise itself.) All in all, a pretty bad disappointment even though technically well-written, a book that didn't even meet the lowered expectations I had going into it. Buyer beware.

Out of 10: 6.2 ( )
  jasonpettus | Oct 31, 2009 |
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