Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thumbs Sideways
by Rex Pickett


First of all. The movie's better. It's rare that happens, even rarer that I enjoy saying that. Still, it's true.

Now then, that that's out of the way - Sideways - a fortunately quick read told by a protagonist that really takes some getting used to (if you ever do get used to him) that wanders and meanders to who knows where and ends up just as lost.

I'm sorry, I'll really try to make some sense.

This novel follows two middle-aged men on a week-long wine binge before one of them gets married. Miles, a struggling/failed writer is at wit's end in his personal and professional lives, is supposed to clash comedically with Jack, the fun-loving, charismatic, mildly successful B-actor about to get married. They're best friends, if you didn't already guess that, and they're out for one last hurrah in Santa Ynez wine country. They both drink from morning to midnight, mostly wine, in what seems to be a fictional story set in a very non-fiction world. The restaurants are real, the wineries are real, the hotels are real.

Yet, none of this makes a shred of difference. The characters aren't real, and if they are, I don't care because they're crass and dispicable and unfunny and full of predictable lines. Sure, there are a few moments shining with insight, but they are as rare as the laughs. Jack's recurring injuries that mimic his inner struggle to kill his upcoming marriage was the one saving grace in a novel full poorly plotted and even more poorly executed. I'm just glad it was quick and that they made a movie out of the book that made wine-tasting seem more enjoyable than delinquent.

I can only hope that I don't sound as pretentious and snobby about wine when I do learn about it, because I am trying desperately to learn, and that I can enjoy it without turning my nose up at the next guy.

Wow! That was bad. It actually turned out a lot worse than I thought it would. I guess I really didn't like that book. Eeh!

Maybe I'll have some wine with my whining. Maybe some Merlot.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Where the Red Fern Grows"
by Wilson Rawls

I've been on a kick lately of reading books I never got the chance to read. When I told Aubrey I'd never read Where the Red Fern Grows she told me I had to read it, that it was the first book she read and reread zealously as a child. I was intrigued.

But I tread lightly. Aubrey likes books that are sad, her recommendations are books that make one want to cry their weeks away, to wallow in the sadness, to feel the deepest, saddest emotions the earth has afforded us.

And still, I had to read it. I'm glad I did.

Billy saves up money for two years to buy some hunting dogs so he can hunt coons in the foggy river bottoms of Ozark Country, which is quite a feat for any young boy. He finally gets his dogs and trains them with patience and care matching that of the most committed trainers, and breeds two of the best hunting dogs. Billy and his dogs go out night after night, and they form one of the strongest bonds ever illustrated in a book.

This book started slow, and though I was into the ideas of it, I had a hard time getting into it. I stayed patient, and it payed off. About halfway through I was hooked, and at the end I was so devastated yet hopeful that I could see why Aubrey loved this book, why she had read it again and again. This story not only evoked feelings within me I had long since forgotten, it transported me to a time and place I love to go. The south, the Ozarks, the woods, hunting with two loyal dogs in the woods, skirting disaster at every turn with the imagination and invincibility we all feel we have at such a young age.

Where the Red Fern Grows is a timeless classic, worth every page, worth the slow beginning, and definitely worth the miraculous end. I wish I had read this book when I was younger, but then again, I'm kindof glad I didn't. I'm kindof glad Aubrey recommended this book to me, glad she had me pinned that I would love this book. And I'm glad I listened.