Saturday, September 14, 2013

Read my Nose.

When a friend, who recently moved to Sante Fe, offered to let me have her (signed) copy of James Conaway's Nose to read I jumped at the chance.  I'd heard it was a tale of wine and mystery, so what wouldn't there be in this book for me to like?  Sigh.  I really wanted to like this novel, I really did.  I have read two other James Conaway books; Napa: The Story of an American Eden and The Far Side of Eden enjoying them both (save for a bit of gratuitous gossiping).  However, those two books were works of non-fiction and, if  Nose is anything to go by, non-fiction is the genre that Mr. Conaway should stick to. 
Nose is a relatively quick-read, the story is set in the fictional, San Francisco Bay Area, wine-centric town of Caterina (a very thinly disguised Napa).  The cast of characters is more or less predictable; the nouveau riche developer who'll stop at nothing to make a killing in the wine industry; the tree-hugging, earth-muffin winemaker with a conscience; the good-living and overly influential wine critic (incidentally the most interesting character, but not for long); and the young, new-comer journalist who is going to expose them all - for good and for bad.  Yeah, again, sigh.
This book held such promise.  But for me the story was somewhat unstructured and the prose often ponderous.  Character development was poor (please, fleetingly meet Esme) and contradictory statements/occurrences abound (well, two glaring ones at least, e.g. pp 241-244, the stacked washer-dryer - it's stacked, one shouldn't be able to, erm, sit on it!).  What this book really needed was an editor.  Apparently, the book did have an editor, but I can only assume that she must have been drinking on the job. (Copernicus, maybe?  Just joking.)  Now I'm no grammarian (although I am the self-proclaimed queen of the dangling modifier), but that's alright because I'm not writing a book for publication and sale.  If I was writing a book I would definitely employ an editor who recognised my weaknesses and who would be subsequently tasked with correcting my grammatical crimes. 
Anyway, enough of all that.  The deal is that this book was given to me with the express request that it'd be passed on to someone else when I had finished reading it.  So who wants it next?  All qualifying requests (in the comment section) will be put into one of the Vinodog's bowls for a drawing.  Good luck.


Dennis Tsiorbas said...

Vinogirl, wow, I loved your book review, but what caught my attention the most was the gossip; does that mean there was untruth about fictional characters which some would know as real?
I'm not sure that Thoreau didn't have a good point, and that, from a "News" hound:-)
"To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea." Make that wine please!
Henry David Thoreau

Thomas said...


It used to be that a writer's publisher provided the editor. These days, that happens only at the major publishers (the ones that remain and have celebrity writers).

Few books go through an edit these days, and it shows. When my second book was published, I found 13 problems that a good edit would have fixed.

Vinogirl said...

NHW: For this book, I'm sure Mr. Conaway drew upon a lot of gossip to develop some composite characters. In his book 'Napa: The Story of an American Eden' I didn't particularly care for the gossipy way he dealt with John Daniel's (Inglenook) family problems.

Tomasso: No editors? Well, that's a bit of a problem. So how does that impact book number 4?

Thomas said...

Wish I knew, Vinogirl. That book has been at the publisher for nine months and no word yet on when it will either be edited or be published.

Number 5, which I am working on now, will definitely be edited, and I'll have to get it done myself!

The publishing world is truly a mess. While they sell out to larger and larger companies, publishers have yet to figure out how to regain their once profitable business model.

Two things I can suggest, don't show any promise that publishers will listen:

1. Instead of reducing the advances they pay to scores of decent writers, they could stop giving million-dollar advances to celebrities whose books more often than not do not earn all the money back.

2. Get rid of the retail returns program that began during war time when people hadn't time nor money to buy and read books. It's the only business that I know where wholesalers tell retailers that if they can't sell the books that they ordered, not to worry, just send them back for credit.

The third idea of course is for publishers to go back to providing editors, but since that idea has nothing to do with making a profit and all to do with producing a quality product, it is less likely than the two above to get any attention.

Sadly, capitalism has taken us to the point of diminishing return, where it's all about how much money you can get for how little effort you expend. In the end, we pay more and more for less and less. If you don't believe me, just look at the weight (and price) of what used to be a one-pound package but is now 13 ounces!

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

Thomas, you'll probably think this a bit goofy, but have looked at the price of comic-books? I used to pay 10 cents, but now they're $3.99 (There is no inflation!).
I doubt that Capitalism is so much the problem, as is our culture being dumbed-down, and more concerned about a book written about Justin B's dreams than "Pilgrim at Thinker Creek" or "A Heart is a lonely hunter"!
Supply and demand still rules unless social technocrats artificially interfere with the process, just like they do in Hollywood (20 parts crap to 1 part quality).
Admittedly I know nothing about publishing, but economic laws apply, except for the Government and Politically

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

Continued, as I was cut-off (PC)motivated institutions alter the "natural" course of economics.
Leave it said that all the variables are not so clearly delineated.

Thomas said...


American capitalism peaked a number of years ago. It's only a matter of time...

Vinogirl said...

Tomasso & NHW: Well, that's not very good...I can tell you're frustrated. Because you have been published before, you have something to compare your current circumstance to...pity the poor new author who is thoroughly at their publisher's mercy. Dumbing down the population to expect less and less (and poorer and poorer treatment) is the problem, not a for profit economic system.

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

Vinogirl, I just noticed that U got into the fray, and u've tied a nice bow to end the discussion 8-)

Dennis Tsiorbas said...

VG: Wait for it!

Vinogirl said...

NHW: Oh joy! He's writing a prequel...I CAN wait!!!