This season's issue of World of Fine Wine posts a review of Naked Wine alongside of Jamie Goode's new book. This companion piece has become common amongst the reviewers. I actually think the task is difficult, with one being a narrative and the other a textbook. Peter Richards, MW., managed it elegantly.
As a rule (which I break) I try not to read my own press (as 'they say,' if you believe the good, you have to believe the bad), yet, it is always a particular joy when a reader understands me. (I had the same feeling during my playwriting days. Sometimes an actor was from another planet, bringing an altogether different meanin but sometimes an actor was so in synch with my meaning, it was jump out of the seat thrilling. I'd feel the appreciation through every nerve synapse.)
Writing challenges the author for ownership, does the piece belong to me? The reader? The reviewer? No matter how careful we are at choosing our words, we can press off the most peculiar interpretations. Readers bring their own past, agenda and self to the reading process. Yet, that is the beauty, the horror and even the gift of the avocation.
Writers use the pen to slice open minds, prick conversation and thought. Writers slave to illuminate words highlighting emotions and action that many people-- not cursed to the keyboard-- cannot. In fact, this is the work of any artist, regardless of modality. But when someone taking on the mantle of critic, just doesn't 'get,' it, nor can they support their case, that's when, as Terry Theise recently told me, "You must review the reviewers." Which he tells me he did when the Wine Spectator handled his own book, Between the Wines.
Continuing on this tangent, there's another review of Naked in Meninger's. The review seems to attempt playing woodpecker to my reputation and credibility. Given that we have some negative history, I'm not sure it was really kosher for the gent to have even had written about me, but let me give him the benefit of the doubt.
The author no patience with my definition of Natural Wine, and willfully refused to accept that I've posited one. He also is mystified about a section where I spilt tears as Tom Waits drifted over the speakers in a Loire Valley barn stuffed with wine filled barrels. It was very hard to sit on my real feeling and write in to him to say, "You idiot 'reviewer', the chapter was about Nicolas Joly's search for a 'song' when it comes to wine. The chapter was about song and music. Song was in its title.
I'll grant that perhaps that scene didn't work for him, but to question what the scene had to do with its context made me realize that the gent was either sloppy or perverse or getting back at me for some perceived offense. The chapter's thread was trailing emotional truth. Whether in people or in wine, the emotional truth is what we crave out of life, authenticity. But the writer was across the pond and I couldn't smack him over the head.
Reading about Vaclav Havel in the Times this morning; very touching. Beautiful photograph of a man playing violin in the streets in his honor. This is the section that further touched me.
“Many ridiculed Havel for his words about truth and love,” said Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech Republic’s foreign minister, in his eulogy Friday. “Yet it is the essence of the human struggle. And we must never give up that struggle,” said Mr. Schwarzenberg, who had served as Mr. Havel’s chancellor.
In no means am I comparing myself to Havel, so please don't go there. But Havel was a writer and a poet. Schwarzenberg's comment touched me, especially when I have my personal struggles and have my mother's critical words in my ear, "This is what you do? You write about wine? This is important?"
As a metaphor, yes. Though sometimes it is difficult for me to remember. And I do know that while I have my supporters, my writing is perhaps too revealing, personal and emotional for many of my peers, but, I am not writing for my wine peers, I am writing for a reader.
Drink well, have a lovely weekend, and if you Christmas, do it well and true and with feeling. --Alice