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By Geoff on 06-15-05
A brilliant comic novel about midlife crises
This is a brilliant comic novel about two sadsacks who take off to the Santa Barbara County wine country. One is a failed novelist who has replaced his remorse over his divorce to his soulmate with a romance with wine. His best friend is a semi-successful TV director in Hollywood. The book is hilarious, but there's a depth of sadness that this is going to be the last time they get together in this way. The equally brilliant movie changed some things, and not always for the best -- Sandra Oh's character changes tipped it a little more toward ugliness -- but the book cuts deeper than its comedy; it's a soul-searching tragedy of lives lost in the balance. Reviewers who complain about profanity shouldn't be allowed to review this; it just isn't objective reviewing. This book, aside from being the definitive novel -- I didn't say nonfiction -- written about wine is going to go down as a classic comic story, one that will last for years to come. I saw the film several times and it cut deeper every time. But I think the book stands up to the movie and may even be better in some way because it interiorizes the main character of Miles in a way that the movie can't. There's something deeply archetypal about Jack and Miles; we both know guys like this. The women may border on fantasy at times, but they're just as flawed and just as lonely and aliented in their own lives and it's not hard to buy why they would all want to have a good time. For people who think "real" characters like this don't exist, they're living in some faith-based bubble where they want their art to represent some ludicrous fantasy of goodness. Well, it ain't like that out there, folks. This is a tremendous book from a truly gifted author.
13 of 17 people found this review helpful
By C. D Strother on 06-16-05
if you liked the movie, you will like the book
If you liked the movie, I think you will like the book, even though the book is very different in some respects. I loved the movie and I am tempted to give the book five stars. but the book does have flaws/lapses. There's a lot more drunkeness. Some incidents are not credible and are distracting. There is lots more on specific wines, which is great. I completely disagree that the book is poorly written. There are parts that are extremely well-written. Very memorable. You may want to keep a dictionary handy. The first person voice is very much that of writer. A well read one, with a large and expressive vocabulary. Among other things, it is interesting to see where the moviemakers altered and streamlined the novel. The novel "explains" parts of the movie, for instance, some of the motivations of characters that were unclear. But the characters also clearly evolved into different people in the transition from book to movie. The relationship between Jack's wife to be and Miles' former wife is much more developed in the book. Probably unnecessarily. The character of Jack's wife to be is much more three dimensional and explains Jack's character quite a bit, in a way that makes sense. Those that complain about the crudeness, I bet did not like the move either. Sorry, but I am afraid that many men talk and act this way. It rang more or less true to me, although the characters are exaggerated for effect. The conflicts in Miles character are better explained in the book. For instance, his stealing from his Mother. To me the character makes sense. He has great inner conflict and is a good person and a bad person at the same time, as is Jack. This is the way people really are and the book and the movie explore this well. To me there are several big lapses as to Maya in the book--inconsistencies with character. She is still compelling. Virginia Madsen truly deserves kudos. In general, I appreciated the movie even more after reading the book.
6 of 8 people found this review helpful