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Sideways: A Novel Paperback – September 23, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two old friends set out for a weeklong romp through Santa Ynez, Calif., wine country that comically strains their friendship in Pickett's lively debut. Smart, hapless narrator Miles is divorced and broke, and his novel's been rejected all over town. His handsome, "ursine" best friend, Jack, a successful actor, is about to get married, and wants to enjoy a few last days of freedom. Pickett gleefully chronicles their many minor adventures, including the oversexed Jack's attempts at getting laid, a boar-hunting episode and a staged car accident. Add to that massive amounts of wine: oenophile Miles swills rather than sips, and Jack's always been a party guy. While Jack works his charm on the ladies, Miles has his own flirtation with a lovely waitress. Miles can be a delightful narrator, but he's no prince: he's a bore when it comes to wine, for example, and he can get a little pseudophilosophical ("photos mock the present by staring back at us with their immutable luster of our youthful past"). He also thinks nothing of snatching a couple thousand dollars from his alcoholic mother on her birthday. But redemption for all is promised and Pickett takes his readers on a jolly ride. His novel sounds like a perfect buddy flick, and indeed, it will have its chance: Alexander Payne (About Schmidt; Election) is directing it for Fox Searchlight.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Screenwriter Pickett's debut, already a film in the making by Almost Schmidt director Alexander Payne, is a buddy novel in the cinematic vein of Swingers. Two longtime friends, Miles, a struggling, cynical, recently divorced writer and wine snob, and Jack, a soon-to-be-wed TV director, leave Los Angeles for vineyard country on Jack's last week as a bachelor. Their road trip of endless imbibing and carousing feels like Dharma Bums updated with metrosexual panache. Miles is most interested in consuming wine while Jack is hell-bent on consummating one last affair. Jack's suave demeanor and classically handsome mug get both friends into uproarious and dangerous situations in this rambling comedy of errors. Pickett plays the sex-and-the-single-man angle for all its worth here, nodding occasionally at such larger themes as friendship and romance. Call it Nick Hornby lite. Misha Stone
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 354 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312342519
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312342517
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rex Pickett's Biography


Rex Pickett is the critically-acclaimed author of the novel Sideways, upon which the Oscar-winning Alexander Payne film of the same title was adapted. Not only did the film win over 350 awards from major critics and awards organizations and completely change the wine world, the film has continued to garner a worldwide cult following.

Rex was born in California and grew up in San Diego. He attended the University of California at San Diego where he matriculated summa cum laude with a Special Projects major, his diploma reading: "Specializing in Contemporary Literary and Film Criticism and Creative Writing."

In the early '80s Rex moved to Los Angeles to attend USC's graduate film school. Disappointed with their conservative approach to filmmaking, he and his then wife, Barbara Schock, spent the '80s making two independent feature films, California Without End and From Hollywood to Deadwood. Rex wrote, directed and edited both films. California Without End was a 1,000-mile road movie, made on the minuscule budget of $60,000. It sold to Bavarian Radio Television and played film festivals. From Hollywood to Deadwood was a 4,000 mile road movie, was produced for a cost of just under a million and sold to Island Pictures (now MGM) and was released in 1990.

Rex returned to writing and wrote numerous scripts, both on spec and for hire. He was the last writer on David Fincher's first feature, Alien III. His original screenplay The Road Back was bought by Joan Micklin Silver (Crossing Delancey), for whose company he also adapted the novel Striking it Rich. His first studio paying job was for Kevin Bacon's MixedBreed Films, a then Columbia/TriStar production company.

In the mid-'90s Barbara Schock enrolled in the American Film Institute as one of 25 directors in their prestigious graduate film school. Rex wrote all three of her first-year shorts. Barbara was one of only four directors to be asked back for a second year. Her thesis film, My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York, written by Rex, won over 15 film festivals, then triumphantly captured the granddaddy of all short film recognition, the 2000 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. This year, Barbara Schock was just named Chair of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film program.

Around the same time Rex turned his prodigious talents to prose writing. Marrying his first love of film to the long-form style of the novel, he wrote a mystery titled La Purisima. It immediately attracted the attention of publishing agents and he signed with Curtis Brown, LTD. Though the novel didn't sell, it galvanized Rex to write what would become his signature work, the novel Sideways.

In 2003 Alexander Payne, along with his writing partner Jim Taylor, began their adaptation of Rex's novel. Payne was quoted in numerous interviews saying that "Rex's novel was our easiest adaptation because Rex thinks like a screenwriter." The film went into production in the fall of '03 and was released the following year. It captured every single Best Screenplay Adaptation award in the world including the 2005 Academy Award, the Golden Globe, and the prestigious Writers Guild of America award. The film went on to gross over half a billion dollars in all ancillary markets.

In 2011 Rex came out with his Sideways sequel, titled Vertical. It won the Independent Publisher Book Award for Best Fiction. During the same time Rex wrote a pilot for HBO with Leverage Management (Entourage and Boardwalk Empire).

Also in 2011 Rex was asked to adapt his now iconic novel Sideways into a theatrical production. The play was first produced at the 50-seat Equity-waiver Ruskin Group Theater. It opened in May, 2012 with 3 performances a week. It sold out every performance for over 6 months, breaking all record at Ruskin and winning a number of awards. In no time Rex signed with William Morris Endeavor's theatrical touring agent Susan Weaving, who got his play to 3-time Tony Award-winning director, Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys). In almost impossibly record time the play was produced at the august La Jolla Playhouse (50 plays sent to Broadway and over 80 Tony Awards) and opened July 21st, 2013. It was extended twice and broke all attendance records for a non-musical play in the La Jolla Playhouse's 30-year history. It is now headed to London with The Dodgers, a Broadway powerhouse theatrical production company.

In the fall of 2012 the government of Chile, in conjunction with Wines of Chile, invited Rex to travel the length and breadth of their country, focusing on their emerging wine regions, and researching the writing of a third book in the Sideways series. Rex has just finished what he is titling Sideways 3 Chile and the book will come out in July of 2014.

In the summer of 2013, on the campus of his alma mater, UCSD -- coincidentally also where the La Jolla Playhouse is situated -- Rex's papers were accepted by the Mandeville Special Collections in the Theodore Geisel Library where they are now archived for posterity.

From two self-published books of poetry to two independent feature films, student shorts, screenplays -- both feature and TV -- to two published novels and now theater, Rex has written in practically every fictional form. (He has also won two travel journalism awards for articles written for Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine.) He is currently represented by William Morris Endeavor in theater and publishing, and by the Agency for the Performing Arts in screen and TV. He is managed by the former co-president of Untitled Entertainment, Brian Young. He has been a member of the Writers Guild of America since 1990 and the Dramatists Guild since 2012.

Rex recently returned from 5 months in Tuscany where he was writing an original screenplay titled Raymond in Chianti for the De Angelis Group, a film to be shot in the fall of 2015. He is currently living in La Jolla and working on a new play as he awaits news on his Sideways the play going to London for a West End run.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Bevetroppo on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Miles is an alcoholic and he's a bad role model, or so says an article in the Sunday NY Times today. Thirty-something wine wannabes are packing the Hitching Post and reciting lines from the movie like crazed Rocky Horror Show refugees (especially when it comes to defaming Merlot), according to the Wall Street Journal a few days earlier.. Who would have ever thought wine geekdom could be so hip, so funny, so sexy? Alexander Payne deserves an Academy Award for accomplishing this feat alone, and we'll know next week if he gets it. Among its other nominations, Sideways is also up for best adapted screenplay, and now that I've read the book, it certainly gets my vote in this category.

I'm not sure what was going through my mind when I decided to buy the book after having seen and loved the movie. I guess at worst I thought I could read the stuff specifically about wine and continue sifting through it to see if I could find any false notes (what else would a geek do?) The cheap-looking puke green paperback cover with the unpromising come-on, "The ultimate roadtrip. The last hurrah," certainly didn't compel me.

But my fears were unfounded. The book is miraculously even better than the movie on almost every dimension. The characters are richer, and the story is both funnier and more believable. For starters, Miles is better -looking than Paul Giamatti. Only a truly sideways wine geek could believe for a minute that Virginia Madsen or any other Maya could fall for someone with a puss like that. Maybe the movie should have been titled "Revenge of the Wine Nerds."

The plot of the book roughly parallels the movie, but the details are deliciously different and absolutely repay reading the book.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Frank Upchurch on January 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like most people I saw the movie, then went back and read the book. I loved the movie, but in some ways the book is better. Miles, the main character in the movie, is more lovable in the book. And he's funnier!! In the movie he comes across as a bit of pretentious snob, but in the book his passion for wine is totally believable. Jack, the other main character in the book, is a hoot in the movie, but I find he has more going on in the book. The book is a real complement to the movie, which owes a great deal to the book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By chris meesey Food Czar on February 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
A wonderful, refreshing (and thoroughly alcoholic) read, Sideways centers on two main characters: Miles, an Apollonian, writer, always pondering existence and his meaning and place in it; and Jack, a Dionysian (how appropriate for a wine novel!), happy-go-lucky, live-for-the-moment kind of guy. Together, they spend a week on the road in California (Santa Ynez) wine country, so Miles can kill time and entertain his best friend while awaiting (hopeful) publication of his first novel; and so Jack can get some last minute "action" before sacrificing himself on the altar of wedded bliss. Many hilarious scenes ensue, particularly the opening $5 tasting opus at the local wine purveyor, the delightful Pinotfest at the Fess Parker winery late in the book, and any scene involving Maya and Terra, two delicious honeys picked up by the guys during their debauchfest. Doublecross and betrayal, staged auto accidents, a wild boar hunt with a real wild bore (note the change in spelling!), and tastings aplenty will have both the wine novice and aficianado alike on the edge of their seat. The lead characters are especially memorable: Miles and Jack discover they truly need each other. Miles needs Jack to keep from sliding into depression after his recent divorce, and Jack not only needs Miles to get him to the wedding on time, but also to have a soul buddy he can truly relate to. (One of the best ironies of this book is the fact that Jack can score with women, but can't relate to them, while Miles can relate to women, but often can't seem to score with them!) A fabulous read, to be sure. However, before buying a copy, the truly astute reader will be sure to have certain supplies on hand: 1.Read more ›
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Rodriguez on October 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
I just wanted to say that this book was excellent. With every description Pickett writes of the wine, I found myself wishing I could also taste them. The story is entertaining, and its characters are full of charisma. Granted many of their actions throughout the book are questionable, they never lose that charm. Especially Miles, whom I find I have a lot in common with. I really can't wait to see how it will come out on the big screen, hopefully it keeps all the flavor.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By andris virsnieks on March 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
A story worth reading about a would-be writer, Miles, drinking himself to death because of his divorce. However, he is doing it with excellent Pinots so he is not a wino. Miles is not finishing himself off quietly in a dark corner. He is active and adventurous. Miles and his friend Jack party hard in the sunny vineyards of California. He tries to kill himself more quickly when his book is rejected. But at the end there is hope when he finds a new love. The movie's good but the book is better.

You could get a hangover reading this book. The characters drink wine continuously. Readers who enjoyed wine too much at one time or another will get more out of this book than those who have always been sober, let alone those who have never had a sip of wine. You will learn a lot about wine, especially Pinots, at the same time as you are entertained by the four drinkers, Miles, Jack, Maya and Terra. Also the author's (Rex Pickett's) creative descriptions of various landscapes in California vividly capture the feeling I have when I travel down there.

If you are dealing with rejection from a college, an employer, but especially from a publisher who is rejecting your creation -- your book! -- Miles' extreme reaction (drinking a bucket of wine and spit and running into the ocean to drown) and the revelation he has from that event is good therapy. It will give you a healthy perspective. You may even be able to laugh about your rejction (at least grimly?). I wish I would have read this book when my book was being rejected. It would have made me feel stoical compared to Miles. I did get published. In the end Rex Pickett does not get Miles published. Not a completely happy ending? Could Mr. Pickett have a sequel in mind? "Upright"?
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