Catching up on a couple of ToB match days, starting with Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind v. Kawai Strong Washburn’s Sharks in the Time of Saviors on Thursday. I read & liked Sharks a lot when I read it for Camp ToB last summer (which it won, thus earning its spot here in the main tournament).
And I don’t say this often, but I started and immediately stopped reading Leave the World Behind. The tone and style were just very very not my thing. Book people talk sometimes about disliking a title so much they want to throw it across the room, and, well, now I know what they mean. But that’s the one that won this round, and so there’s a chance someone will tear it apart in its next matchup.
Though maybe, I learned after reading the snarky, condescending judgement in Friday’s quarterfinal matchup of James McBride’s Deacon King Kong v. Bryan Washington’s Memorial, I wouldn’t enjoy that so much, after all. This judge apparently didn’t care much for either book, which made for a pretty dreary round. The Commentariat had a lot strong opinions, on both sides, of his final criteria:
I think it’s unlikely that these two books will be much read, loved, or discussed in a hundred years… 1920 produced one indispensable masterpiece, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, and hopefully whichever title takes this year’s Rooster incarnates even a fraction of that book’s invigorating brilliance and enduring virtuosity.
I suppose, as a tie-breaker, such a consideration might be valid, though I tend to agree with those who argued that one’s own reading experience – right now, in the present – is worth more than what imagined future generations will enjoy or be moved by or be inspired by. Not to mention the dubious logic of cherrypicking one masterpiece from a hundred years ago to compare, really, any modern book to. Anyway, it didn’t actually break his tie, as he deems both well below that measure. So I guess he just thought that was clever, or was showing off (as one Commentariat member succinctly put it, “Wow. MFA much?”), or just did it for the lulz.
The good part is that I’m convinced about Deacon King Kong; it’s added to my TBR list. To be clear, that’s thanks to all the folks who really loved it, not this judge finally, grudgingly picked it as the winner. Not the best matchday ever, but I’ll be here for the next one on Monday.
Leave a Reply