Friday, March 26, 2010

Heat-Moon revisited

Surprisingly, John and I haven't written much about William Least Heat-Moon on this blog. He is a favorite writer of both of us, and I think it's fair to say Heat-Moon has shaped my writing style, and maybe even my career, to some extent.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Heat-Moon in 2008 for the Kansas City Kansan. Heat-Moon was in KC promoting his newest book, "Roads to Quoz," his fourth major travel book following "River-Horse," "PrairyErth" and the classic bestseller "Blue Highways."

I set up the interview through his publishing house (via Rainy Day Books) and was given an hour to speak with the man. I kidnapped him and his wife from their fancy Plaza hotel and took them to lunch at a truly Heat-Moon type of place, Rosedale Barbecue in KCK. We conducted the interview. I uncovered some of Heat-Moon's hidden KCK roots. And then we took a drive.

Three and a half hours later, I returned Heat-Moon and his wife to their hotel.

The story I wrote contained very little of the original, one-hour interview. Most of the piece was about the driving tour that followed.

As a journalist, that was one of the most rewarding days of my career.

Shortly after my interview with Heat-Moon, the newspaper went belly-up and I was laid off.

I bring all this up because I began a new (albeit temporary) job a while back. One day at the lunch table I noticed one of my co-workers reading a tattered copy of "PrairyErth." We struck up a conversation about William Least Heat-Moon, and it's been a common topic for us ever since.

The conversations reminded me that I'd been meaning to re-read Heat-Moon's classic, "Blue Highways."

So this week, I began to do exactly that.

I encourage any of our readers to pick up a copy and read it. You should be able to find it at any local library or bookstore.

I'll close today with this nugget of wisdom from "Blue Highways," a strong statement that sums up my own thoughts about the Christian missionary movement, particularly as it was used against the Native Americans:

Take the land, take the old ways, Christian soldiers, but please, goddamnit, leave me my soul.

--Matt Kelsey

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