Sunday, January 15, 2012
VERTICAL by Rex Pickett (2010) Loose Gravel Press, 403 pages
Irrepressible rapscallions Jack and Miles reunite seven years later in this sequel to SIDEWAYS, Pickett's beloved debut novel that found its way adapted to the screen by Alexander Payne and the recipient of 350 awards.
VERTICAL is a smart, sassy unconventional picaresque romp from California, through Oregon (where Miles has been invited to be the Emcee at a Pinot Noir bacchanal) to Wisconsin. The first-person Russian nesting doll meta-narrative of Martin inside Miles inside Rex makes my litnerd head spin. In a good way.
Lady luck has been kind to Miles in the interim. He has written a novel that was made into a wildly successful movie called SHAMELESS, while Jack is divorced from his socialite wife, has a kid he adores, but is out of work, his paw outstretched for handouts from Miles. And, though women have been hurling themselves and their potty mouths at Miles because of his celebrity on the wine circuit, Miles yearns for a relationship that delves beyond the surface, one grounded in love and respect. Jack, however, has other ideas for both of them.
Enter Phyllis, Miles's mom. She's had a stroke, is wheelchair bound, and is inching a little closer to death in the assisted living facility they jokingly call Las Villas de Muerte, where she poignantly notes, "I don't feel human anymore." Miles is determined to honor his mother's wish to see her siblings, so decides to do just that with the support of Joy--one of her caretakers--and Jack as his co-pilot of the Rampvan, sharing driving duties and drinks along the way.
The unlikely foursome is joined by a fifth, Phyllis's impetuous Yorkshire terrier who has been living with Miles' ex-girlfriend. And, though there are capers a-plenty including a dognapping, al fresco dalliances and a perfectly conceived bathetic moment in a dunk tank--all rife with Miles and Jack's trademark repartee--it is the heart at the centre of the narrative that delivers its humanity straight up. Sometimes the most difficult moments to face are the ones that will change your life for the better.
Find your way to VERTICAL. Sip your way through. Savour it like a glass of perfectly-aged Richebourg. And, discover what true friendship is all over again.