Driving Along VineyardsFor those of us who are book lovers, we look forward to the time when we finally get to see the movie that is based on a book that we love. Almost inevitably, we’re often disappointed. The only time we’re not disappointed is when we see the movie and either get around to reading the book later or never get around to it at all.

Sideways is an interesting conundrum. I really enjoyed the movie; however, I enjoyed the movie as a character study, not necessarily as a wine movie, even though the Pinot had a significant supporting presence. I had a hard time convincing some people that’s what it was, because they were stuck on Buellton, Pinot Noir, and the whole Santa Barbara Wine Country thing. They seemed to miss the people, the plot, and the human interactions. I enjoyed the book as well, although on a different level and for different reasons.

The Audience channel (334, Direct TV) has been playing Sideways – in its full version, no cutting or censoring at all – and I took the time to watch it. Again. Yes, I have the DVD, but that’s immaterial. I watched it, and shortly after my “reviewing,” I discovered that Rex Pickett’s three books are now online and on Audible. I had credits, so I downloaded them. My original intent was to review all three books at the same time. However, the surprising complexity of Sideways and what I’ve discovered so far in Vertical, the followup book, quickly changed my mind.

Although Sideways is the only one that has been made into a movie, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the other ones aren’t being considered, although I understand that Rex Pickett has been less than enthusiastic about having Vertical put into movie format.  It is so excruciatingly personal – although allegedly fiction – that I can understand that.

The Sideways movie is, in actuality, very loosely based on the book. The book is incredibly detailed, and Rex Pickett’s use of the language thrills me. He is a wordmaster, a craftsman of the language, and the logophile within me loves it passionately. A lot of that is missed, by necessity, in the movie. But if you are reading the book you better have your brain – or at the very least an unabridged dictionary – with you at all times. As Jack says to Miles on more than one occasion, “you’re going Webster’s on me, Homes.”

There are characters and plot twists that are not in the movie. In addition, the movie renamed two significant characters: Stephanie, the character played by Sandra Oh, was originally named Tara and was a blonde, and Jack’s bride to be, who’s named Babs in the book, but is Christine in the movie. She’s just a “regular” American in the book, but in the movie she is apparently first-generation Armenian.

The thing that I think that surprised me most was the fact that some of the book also focused on Paso Robles. That’s where the wedding was held, where they did some tasting, but none of that was ever mentioned in the movie. I am about a little over a quarter of the way through the next book, Vertical, and in the early part of the book there’s quite a bit about Paso Robles. At my current placeholder, there is a scene that is taking place at the Justin Winery and Inn and there is a flattering mention of Isosceles. I can’t tell you much more than that since I’m still progressing.

I think it’s significant to note that “sideways” usually refers to a wine that tastes far different than it smells. However, Rex uses it as a synonym for being drunk. “Oh yes I was getting all sideways.” I get that. It can be used both ways easily with no problems with confusing the meanings.

You can’t help but to wonder if these books are more than a little autobiographical – everything is too close to the surface and the narration in the first person feels a lot like diary entries and introspection. As you may know if you’ve ever read any of my book reviews, I am particularly taken if the author has a way of crafting sentences that make me smile. Well, Rex Pickett is one of those masterful people. My only gripe is that I should have read it earlier. Whether using my eyeballs or eardrums, it doesn’t matter.  Yeah, yeah. I know I’m late to the party in getting on the Sideways bandwagon, but I don’t care. Better late than…




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