Stories That Blur the Line Between Fact and Fiction

Adam Tipps Weinstein debuts a collection of essays — clever plays on language, histories, facts, and fictions — that are sure to leave readers guessing at the truth behind the writing.


| December 2016



Worn and dirty shoes

“For those who plan to collect Graveyard Shoes for home pulquing, make sure to be out of the graveyard before the sun rises.”

Photo by Fotolia/danflcreativo

In Some Versions of the Ice (Les Figues Press, 2016) — a collection of short, fabricated histories and improbable stories — Adam Tipps Weinstein explores the connections between fiction and nonfiction. He takes quotes and anecdotes and arranges them into mystical explanations of the mundane, leaving the reader guessing how much truth lies within these essays. In this book, history, theory, philosophy, and myth merge into poetic facts.

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

Graveyard Shoes (Pulque)

“This organism is now acknowledged by naturalists as belonging to the animal world.”
— Yeats

Indeed, it is common to find Graveyard Shoes after heavy rainfall, deluge, land swells, &tc. If the shoes are of natural material — cotton, for instance — they may degrade as they rise, and surface as nothing but thin, worn-through sleeves. These are usually poisonous, and should be handled with care if at all; in a matter of days they will thoroughly decompose, leaving behind a shade of shallow muck. Leather, especially cordovan, fares better. These ascend like bubbles and, reaching light and fresh air, ripen to maturity in loamy soil. They are often camouflaged amongst the overgrown weeds, wildflowers and ivy; yet with patience and a keen eye, one discovers them in abundance.

Traditionally, Graveyard Shoes are used for pulque, a refreshing drink made from the pulp pressed from the shoe. Once the shoes have sprouted, the main cavities are well-equipped to hold rainwater, which insures against the periods of drought that often follow the monsoon or hurricane season in which the shoes typically appear. Some survival manuals mention that the water from the main cavity can be collected and drunk in emergency situations. However, shoe cavity water is not immediately potable. It is constantly exposed to the elements, and because it is not protected against bacteria or insects, it often becomes fetid, or burdened with mosquitoes and the larva of flies. Graveyard Shoes are, however, outfitted with capillary-like nylon webbing, which filters the water as it is slowly absorbed from the main collecting cavity into the shoe’s vascular system, effectively treating the water of harmful microorganisms and particulates. The function of the vascular webbing is not unlike that of the liver and kidney in the human body, which cleanses the blood of toxins. It is from the vascular water, then, that the pulque is made.

Pulqueros first empty the shoes of the cavity-water, and then cure them upside down on long shoe racks for two to three days. The cure allows the cavity to completely dry so that only the vascular pulp remains. The shoes are scrubbed of any muck or debris, and then run through a press, and the pulp is squeezed out and collected. The spent shoes may be saved and dried for processing into sponges.