Critical Comments on several of the short stories and essays that comprise:

Tales of the Midwest: Growing Up and Growing Old in Rural Small-town, U.S.A.


Short Stories:

  • Regarding: Yesterday’s Titan:
    “A well-presented “portrait” in words.  Very well-written.  I had a good sense of the man after reading your “portrait” in words.  I also like the inclusion of your private thoughts as you reflected on this man.  I got to see what you were thinking at the time.  It’s nice to see that even after 25 years, you still hold him in high regard.However, this…would be even more memorable if you selected a scene that showed the two of you together interacting and speaking with one another.  Focusing on a small window  of time in greater detail would enliven you and Rex, rather than you reflecting on his influence after the fact. The spoken words of people are very important in bringing the characters to life – in a way that mere explanation can never do.” K.O. 


  • Regarding: The Lion of the West:
     “I enjoyed reading…  It reads like a personal account of an experience you had as a member of the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.  …the effect is that you, John, are telling me, the reader, about this man and this experience from your life. Vivid details. Excellent writing.”   K.O.
    (John Eric Vining’s note: This was my first indication that I had a flair for a somewhat unique and original style of writing that another reviewer would term “imaginative realism.”)


  • Regarding: Medals in the Attic:
    “A warm-hearted personal experience piece. Your personal experience article, “Medals in the Attic,” about your father and his place in the Greatest Generation, is overall, nicely expressed.  I can imagine how proud you were / are of him and his accomplishments. A very nice  salute to your father. To make this more effective, however, [you might have opened] the article with a more personal slant Instead of referring to yourself in the third person – as a young boy.” K.O.


  • Regarding: The Carnie and the Princess:
     “I like the opening…commands interest. It drew me in. I love the title. That too, captured my imagination.Love the dialogue between them. Its believable.[I noted] switching viewpoints. If this is Billy’s story…nothing can occur that he doesn’t know or experience or see!  Next, [I noted] abrupt scene changes. I got lost immediately.What do you mean at the end when you say that he would return for the princess someday?   It’s unlikely that people get back together years after they broke up.  I didn’t find that a very satisfying ending.Good work, overall. Much to commend, but some challenges too.” K.O.


  • Regarding: The Superstar:
     “A fine story…!  Good blend of narrative and descriptive writing. I especially like the  opening paragraph where you clarify what this is going to be about and that you and another man were instrumental in making a difference in the life of one boy.Overall, this is excellent work…I commend you for the time, the approach, and the heart  that went into this piece of writing.  You captured and held my interest from start to finish.” K.O.


  • Regarding: But, Gee, All I Have On My Team is a Bunch of Rookies!
     “Intriguing title. Nice clear intro to your topic. Good sequence…well-presented. Well written.” K.O.


  • Regarding: The Blue Velvet of That Night (a.k.a.: Setting the Stage for “The Carney and the Princess”):  “Tender description of first love!”




  • Regarding: The Herod Dynasty
     “A good job of straightening out a confusing family of Herod’s.” C.B.


  • Regarding: Amos, The Peasant Prophet:
    “Good summary of a very interesting prophet. Are there any lessons from Amos which we need to learn today?” C.B.


  • Regarding: Is the Government Covering Up Too Much Information?
    “Excellent paper. Very timely issue – right!!  Well organized and developed.” J.R.


  • Regarding Robert E. Vining’s: The Russian Revolution: Its Causes and Results:
    “This is a paper that showed interest and hard work. Like all your labors, the job was well done. I learned a great deal from your paper. Your paper was well organized and  informative. You write fluently.”  J.C. “Very good.” M.R.


  • Regarding: The Nature of the Ghosts: Five Ways to Categorize Them: (This essay is a book review of the classic novel, The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James)
    “An excellent study. You have used your sources well and have gone into depth in the controversial areas.  Also, you have reflected varying viewpoints and have attempted a balanced presentation.” D.H.


  • Regarding: Are We Gambling with Our Life (And Afterlife)?
     “Interesting – and also weird, in some respects! The question of historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is properly a matter for the historian… With regard to your “draught illustration, note that the farmer will undoubtedly save the minimum necessary each year in order to safeguard himself – is this what you mean to recommend?” W.H.