Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wine reviewers should acknowledge "crowd pleasers"

I was reading a book I hate last week, by a fellow wine blogger, and it got me to thinking about how many wine critics are failing the public.

The book is "A Discovery of Witches," by Deborah Harkness, who writes the excellent Good Wine Under $20 blog.

I hate the book -- but not because it's bad. It's just not my kind of book. I want vampires to be ruthless bloodsuckers, not research scientist/philanthropists who host yoga classes for self-improving demons and witches. I want vampires to drain humans of their blood and throw them aside like empty beer cans, not fall so helplessly in love with them that they don't want to defile their perfect relationship with a tawdry act like sex.

So instead of finishing the book, I picked up the antidote: "Solomon's Vineyard," a noir novel from 1941 that was banned in the US for more than a decade. Now THAT was my kind of book: tough dialogue, mean characters, steamy atmosphere, murders and retribution. And it revolves around a vineyard run by a suspicious religious cult.

Sadly, it wasn't a great book, and not because of the period-authentic racism or implied pedophilia. It fell apart on the ending, and even though I like characters hard-boiled, this was a tad more acidic than I prefer. But I devoured it quickly, because it's the KIND of book I like, whereas Deborah's book I'll never finish.

Can you see the wine analogy here? Let me spell it out.

Pussified vampires are huge sellers, like big-bodied Cabernets or White Zinfandel. Fist-first noir stories are a niche with fierce advocates, like savory, cool-climate Syrah or red wines from the Loire. If you took 100 people off the street and forced them to read both books, the great majority would vote for vampires doing yoga.

However, I'm a critic, so I get to say not only that I like one book better than the other, but that it IS better, because it's in the style that I prefer.

Food for thought?


Portland Charcuterie Project said...

Ha!! You just described my wife to a tee... sitting in front of the fire at night reading about 'sparkling' vampires and drinking her merlot :)

Cabfrancophile said...

Good call: Twilight is the White Zinfandel of the vampire world. Like alco-pop, it is also marketed to younger consumers . . . .

Personally, I like True Blood--a nice balance between trashy soap opera, campy horror, bits of social commentary, and the sort of depravity one expects from vampires. There are both "varietally correct" and sentimental vampires.

Anonymous said...

Way over my head or I don't care about the subject matter more than likely.