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112 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pinot envy
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...
Published on February 21, 2005 by Bevetroppo

versus
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Book vs. The Movie
Traditionally, a book is better than the movie version -- notable exceptions include "Field of Dreams," "Ordinary People," and "The Horse Whisperer." But now, finally having read this book and seen the movie multiple times, I vote for the movie, while giving enormous credit to Rex Pickett.

Having read the book, one must wonder about some of the choices made in...
Published on December 31, 2006 by Mister MIster


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112 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pinot envy, February 21, 2005
By 
Bevetroppo (Meyersville, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (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. I'm assuming most people who read this review have already seen the movie, so you should be able to relate to the points of departure that follow. I'll do my best to pique your interest without revealing anything that discourages you from reading the book. Miles isn't a teacher; Miles is cute; Maya is a brunette and the Sandra Oh character is a petite blonde named Terra and she doesn't have a daughter; Jack is smarter, richer, and even more charming; Miles and Maya have a scene in a hot tub; Jack's fiancée is a WASP costume designer with a nasty streak, not a saintly ethnic virgin; a memorable character named Brad never makes it into the movie; there is no '61 Cheval Blanc but there is an '82 Latour that isn't consumed alone in a fast food restaurant; Maya seduces Miles with a bottle of '85 La Tache and a Jayer Richebourg he literally laps up (now that's a fantasy that would make any wine geek's cork pop); Jack is disfigured on several occasions but not from a bashing with a motorcycle helmet.

The book opens with a great scene in an LA wine bar/retail store where Miles typically goes for Friday afternoon tastings that often just serve as an excuse to get blasted for $5. There are sharp portraits of the "regulars," exactly the kind of uber-geeks who populate the fringes of the cult of wine. Compared to these nitwits, like the guy who feverishly records all his tasting notes on a laptop, Miles seems relatively normal and well adjusted. This scene presages a lot of what will unfold in the rest of the book, and it's the one element of the plot I most wish had made it into the movie.

If you liked the movie, I wouldn't hesitate to plunge into Sideways with the same abandon that Jack and Miles demonstrate on their weeklong bender. I suspect you'll experience the same thing I did, which is a curious sense of being slightly tipsy throughout as you observe the movie plot you know competing with the denser, more credible, and ultimately more satisfying storyline of the original. In wine-geek land you often hear vineyards described as "plots," so just as two plots that are right next to each other can produce wines with markedly differing "character," so too the movie and the book will vie for your attention and affection. Which you ultimately prefer, well, as the French would say, chacun son gout.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just like a fine wine ..., January 27, 2005
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Sideways!!!, February 28, 2005
By 
chris meesey Food Czar (The Colony, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (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. Vino, of course: any good wine will do, but preferably pinot noir (or the reader's favorite, it really doesn't matter, so long as it's grape), 2. A copy of the DVD: after completing the book, the reader will want to watch the movie over and over again (trust me!), and finally, 3. If the reader is a wine novice, he or she will want to have a good wine guide on hand; how about Andrea Immer's delightful Great Wine Made Simple, especially since she is mentioned by name in the novel? In any case (pun intended!), the reader will want to return again and again to the wonderful world of Sideways, and you may even want to "get a little sideways" yourself each time you reread it!!!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, Wild Ride, August 25, 2004
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (Paperback)
Read about the movie and it sounded great. Alexander Payne is a solid director who always has a good eye for material, so I figured this would be a quality read. I was right. Pickett's book is hysterical with lots of twists and turns. Every adventure Miles and Jack go on is more comical than the one that proceeded it. The dialogue between the both of them and the women that come into their lives is filled with electricity and truth.

Comical, dirty fun. Be careful though. With all the wonderful details about wine (there are plenty), you'll find yourself pouring a glass or three just to keep pace with the characters.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine wine., October 16, 2004
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Two boys having a good time in the vineyards, March 4, 2005
By 
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (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"? In "Upright" Miles and Maya write a fairly successful non-fiction book about wine. Miles gains experience and status as a published author. With Maya's help he rewrites his novel and finds a publisher. The book is a smashing success. In the process they learn how to enjoy Pinot in a healthy way. Two glasses a day. No more endless splashes for "just tasting". But who would read such a book? It could be made funnier if they joined Alcoholics Anonymous and started writing books about non-alcoholic wine (or would that be a tragedy?).

A warning to potential purchasers of "Sideways". If you are offended, put off, distracted by four-letter words -- they are an integral part of Rex Pickett's creativity in this book. In days gone by you would say their language would make a sailor blush. Jack lies and cheats. Miles steals from his mother. So why should they speak like angels? There is incidental violence but no one gets killed. That is a refreshing change from all those best-selling thrillers.

This book for most readers, I think, is worth four stars. But for personal reasons I gave it an extra star. "Sideways" enabled me to experience once again that great high feeling I got from being rejected and then finally getting published. So an extra star for purely emotional reasons.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lost Week, March 14, 2005
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (Paperback)
Apparently I'm one of the few people who read the novel first and then saw the movie. Call me a Luddite, I guess. Really enjoyed the novel. It's funny without being too over the top; sorrowful without being treacly. It has a fast pace, largely because the dialogue feels so real, it's almost like you're dropping into these guys' lives and hanging out with them. The setting, I can attest, is real; and the movie uses the same locations as are in the novel, which makes it even that much more real. The movie cut to what was best about the novel without changing very much and it's a credit to the filmmakers, and I can see why they deserved the Oscar. But don't underestimate the book, which is the foundation for the movie. Comic novels are rare these days. Comic novels about guys are really rare; they're mostly about women who are unhappy in love. Sad to read the previous critique where the reviewer read only two pages and tossed the book aside because there were too many F words. Well, I went back to check the two pages in question and the F words were all in dialogue. In my recollection the author only uses colorful language in dialogue because, duh, that's how these guys talk. His prose, on the other hand, is elegant, especially when he waxes on about wine. Besides, the film has a lot of F words as well. Everyone's entitled to their opinion but what's really pathetic is how the Internet brings every Aimee Semple MacPherson out of the woodwork. If you loved the movie, how could you not at least like the book? They're two peas in a pod.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fateful Journey on the Wine River, June 15, 2004
By 
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (Paperback)
Reading this book was like having a front row seat at a guy ant farm, where the reader can look through the glass and watch the main characters clambering through dark passages, bumping carapaces with other ants, and communicating in an annoying bug language as they journey to the altar of the Ant Queen for ritual self-immolation. As they drink, golf, and verbally spar their way through the central coast wine country, an undertow pulls Miles and Jack toward their day of reckoning. An awakening? A surrender? A reconciliation? All of that. Though I admit a lack of sympathy?these are the kind of guys that would let a middle-aged woman like myself flail and drown in the surf while pursuing some nubile wine-pourer down the beach?there is plenty of interesting substance to work over, and some beautiful lines, like the part with confetti fluttering into the void. There are also lines that made me laugh out loud. I enjoyed the flow of Jack?s gradual physical destruction. Especially appreciated also were the Chandleresque interjections of local landscape. This could be a wickedly fun movie. A note of warning--it took me two days to read, and whether it was the molten red of a Dry Creek Petite Syrah in the eucalyptus grove at Cal Shakes, or the Port-O-Let blue of an agave margarita at Chevy?s, this book made me overindulge!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Instance..., January 21, 2005
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (Paperback)
In which a book and the subesquent movie are both excellent. It seems logical that most of the time the book is better than the movie. Books are simply more discriptive and there is only so much you can put into a two hour flick. But in this case I would recommend both.

Back in December I went to see the movie and about three quarters thru it the projector went out. So I had no idea how it ended. A few days later I found myself enthralled with the book at my local bookstore. I love this book so much because the characters seem so real to me. Although, you the person reading this book don't know me personally, I can really identify with the Miles character in the book. And I've had friends that remind me of Jack. I'm not a big wine guy, but I sure learned a lot by reading this book.

If you're looking for a fiction book with great characters, a great story and a lot of humor, check Sideways out... And then see the movie ;-)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oenophile I'm not, March 18, 2005
By 
Avidreader (New Jersey, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sideways: A Novel (Paperback)
rex pickett's observations on wine are far more interesting to me than any wine expert... his insights are humorous and accessible... i've been interested in wine for most of my adult life... i've sifted through wine books and magazines throughout the years that havent helped to satiate my appetite for knowledge on the subject at all... the wine world just seems so snooty and out of my league and i wanted desperately to understand the allure of wine, what makes a wine taste so good, or what really good wine is supposed to taste like, because most of my wine experiences have been basically the same... slightly bitter, always red... white had never appealed to me... or maybe my taste buds (or my mind) have never really opened up to what wine has to offer... i usually stick with a glass of sherry... however, pickett has subtly awakened my senses with his insights into this foreign world...

i came to read sideways because i needed something light-hearted and fun... after a serious read, this was refreshing, and with all of the hype about the film right now, im just not ready to see it... yet...

i decided to celebrate finishing this novel with a wine tasting of pinot noirs... what better way to complement, as well as compliment, a book that praises and appreciates fine wine?... pour me another glass!...
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Sideways: A Novel
Sideways: A Novel by Rex Pickett (Paperback - June 1, 2004)
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