Before I begin my list, I’ll say a few things.
First, I didn’t even know “Vertical” had come out in 2011. I’ve later read that it was essentially self-published, rather than released by a major publisher. Which is fine, but I think I’m somewhat in-tune with the wine world, and “Sideways” was kind of a big deal, especially here in Pinot country, the Willamette Valley (where a major part of “Vertical” takes place).
So once I heard that the book was out, I was very excited to read it. I was knee-deep in the “Dragon Tattoo” series, and had to finish those first. As soon as I finished the series, I downloaded “Vertical” to my e-reader, and started in. As I’m sure you’ve deduced by the title of this post, I was less than thrilled by what I found. Here’s why:
1. Suddenly, the unlikeable, but somehow still lovable Miles and Jack became truly unlikeable.
In “Sideways”, the main characters Miles (the first person) and his best friend Jack, were more like lovable losers. While they each had characteristics that were detestable, I could at least associate with them, and on some level, like the fact that they were pathetic and unlikeable.
Unfortunately, in “Vertical”, they became just plain awful. Miles, whose character wrote a huge hit of a book which became a hit movie called “Shameless” (which is essentially Sideways), is now uber-famous, and he’s just become horrible. And Jack is still Jack, but without all the goof-ball ego that he had in Sideways.
2. Jack and Miles switched roles, and not in a good way
In Sideways, Miles was the pathetic writer who was a hopeless romantic with no money, no self-esteem and a grim future. Jack was the cash-flush director who couldn’t keep his pants on, no matter who came along. In Vertical, Jack had thrown his career and marriage away, and was suddenly begging the newly successful Miles for cash. Miles become a slut. Flaunting his “fame”, sleeping with everyone he can, but still trying to hang on to the “romantic” who is looking for true love. It all ended up feeling very contrived and thoroughly unbelievable.
3. Who is Miles, anyway???
In Sideways, which was followed by the movie, I really felt the casting of Paul Giamatti was spot-on. A lovable loser who didn’t have “looks” going for him, but had some intelligent things to say to those who wanted to listen. I could believe that he could be a hopeless romantic…kind of a sad-sack of a guy.
Then, suddenly, he became “famous” in Vertical. At one point, the author described Miles as 6’1, in pretty decent shape, and decent looking. It was as if he completely disregarded Miles from the first book, and especially the movie version, and he suddenly became a charming, handsome chick-magnet. I get that “famous” men can attract women out of their “league”, but at no point in the book could I actually visualize Paul Giamatti playing the role of Miles in Vertical.
4. Product placement
Honestly, if Riedel didn’t pay $10,000 or more for all the name-dropping in this book, than Rex Pickett is an IDIOT. For the first 75% of the book, Riedel was mentioned on at least 1 out of every 3 pages. In the afterword of the book, Pickett expressly says that the wineries did not influence him in any way to use their wines/locations. But he didn’t mention Riedel. I’m sorry, bit I’ve drank plenty of Pinot Noir, even sold plenty of it, and while Riedel is a fine company, they certainly aren’t the PREFERRED glassware in all of Oregon, by ALL wineries everywhere, as the book would lead you to believe. So, here’s hoping Pickett cashed a HUGE check for all the bogus product placement.
5. Vertical = Sideways rehashed, and not in a good way
I’ve not seen “The Hangover II”. But everything I’ve read says that it’s basically the same movie but in a new location. That’s how I felt about Vertical. A contrived excuse to get Miles and Jack on another road trip. Add a couple extra characters, a new location, and…Voila! A new book. But…if all the goofy, extreme circumstances in Sideways were fun, they were just too hard to believe in Vertical. All the sex-capades (Jack taking 300mg of Viagra) and drama (Jack’s wheelchair-bound mom careening down a gulch while Miles is fornicating in the vineyard) just come off as trying-too-hard.
6. Forward is by Gary Vaynerchuk
If he LOVES the book…I should have known better. Consider yourself warned.
7. Miles seems to be who Rex Pickett wishes he was after writing Sideways
It’s no secret that Picket struggled mightily to get Sideways published. In fact, the movie was picked up before the book ever even saw the light of day. Pickett made very little (relatively) money from the book and screenplay of Sideways. However, his alter-ego Miles who wrote “Shameless” in the book, became a wealthy, successful, sought-after, uber-celebrity. Women literally threw themselves at him at book signings. I get the feeling that, while Pickett had great notoriety after Sideways, especially in the wine-world, that he WISHES he was Miles.
8. Lazy writing
I don’t know who, if anyone, edited this book, or advised Pickett on some of the decisions he made in the writing style. I’ve never read a book that had more exclamation points (!!!), for one thing. He also (can you believe it???) used a ton (who would have guessed) of () to inject needless fluff. It added nothing to the book, and I found myself very irritated each time.
There was also one time when Jack used a line that had been used a dozen times by Miles’ mom. I have no issue with mom using the line multiple times…it was kind of a signature line. But when Jack used it, it wasn’t in a way that was to honor Miles’ mom, it was just dropped in. It seemed very careless and lazy.
9. Completely unbelievable scenarios
Some have been mentioned earlier in this list. Others I will not specify so that I don’t give away the ending. But there were MANY that seemed just over the top in an unbelievable way. Which made the characters even more un-relatable than they already were. In Sideways, there were some crazy antics. But they were somehow able to feel real, as if, in some alternate life, it could be me. But in Vertical, I think Pickett ran out of ideas, so just threw the craziest things that he could think of into the book, and told us to believe that they were believable. Didn’t work for me.
10. I have trouble believing that any 1-hit-wonder writer in his 40’s parties like he’s Lindsay Lohan
I’ve known a lot of people who party beyond their years. I’ve seen and done plenty in my life. I know not everyone slows down at 30, and on occasion, even 40. But having Jack & Miles drinking, partying, and having obscene sex like they were in their early 20’s…I didn’t buy it. Maybe 1 of the 3, or even 2. But all 3…seemed more like “Animal House” than a Pinot Noir festival.
Well, there it is. The fact that I disliked it so much made me sad. I hated the ending. I didn’t believe or relate to any part of the story. I really disliked Miles. If they make a movie based on the book, I can’t imagine that it’ll be anywhere nearly as acclaimed or successful as Sideways. The whole thing is a bummer. Bummer!