As promised, I am posting less because the whole of last week the judgements just went downhill: excellent, good, I guess, and WHAT THE FUCK YOU GUYS.
You may also notice that Steven has dropped out of the commentary altogether because, and I quote, “I don’t care about any of the books in the tournament any more.”
I was pretty happy to see John Green knocked out by a book that aimed so much higher and delivered on so many more levels. I think choosing between great ambition and more limited achievement is a really interesting call. Last year I remember it came up a bit, particularly with 1Q84 and The Tiger’s Wife (both of which are better than most of this years contenders! Went there!) but this matchup makes the whole conversation ridiculous. I’m not going to slam TFioS any more (mostly because we already have a lot) but The Orphan Master’s Son is not only much more ambitious in theme but also in style, character, scale and age. And then it pulls if off with aplomb. Again, we’ve already talked about this. As Judge Beck says, “Even if the book is exaggerated or inaccurate in some particulars, it captures the ugly spirit of a place ruled by secrecy, mythomania, and brutality.” But it is so much more! Johnson makes details sing, such as the much commented on fishing boat section or the practise kidnappings or the boots with toes still in or the slivers of tunnel fighting. It’s funny too!
Then May We Be Forgiven was knocked out; still all good. Judge Weaver also completely nailed one of my main issues with the book:
“The second half is marked by a jolting calm. As triumph follows triumph, I steeled myself for a return to the chaos and bite of the earlier pages… Unlike the characters, I was prepared for their swift and sudden downfall. How disappointing, then, that it never came. In its second act, the novel builds and builds to a deafening crescendo of bliss, then never stops. It was like starting a dinner with a big, bloody steak, and finishing with a light garden salad.”
Next up was Gone Girl vs Beautiful Ruins. We never ended up talking about Gone Girl and now Steven won’t. I read it long after the hype, really only for the tournament. It was ok! If it hadn’t been super hyped I probably would have even said good. It was pacey and twisty and well plotted even with waaaay too many cliffhangers. Anyway I quite enjoyed it, but no more. The writing was not nearly as lovely as in Beautiful Ruins nor were the voices as varied but hey, that had flaws too. I thought the commentary on both Gone Girl matchups raised some interesting points, such as the male/female insights and the tight structure and plotting. I’ll personally pick writing style over plotting any day but I can definitely see the attractions of this book. Overall I was not too disappointed.
But then BAM How Should a Person Be?, whiny, lazy, and self involved, beat out what may have been the best book of the year. I actually don’t have words. There is nothing to say about how wrong this judgement is. If you don’t plainly see the problem here I don’t know that I can explain it to you.
So obviously I was thankful at least that Gone Girl knocked out How Should a Person Shut Up. (By extension the judgement reads Gone Girl > Bring Up the Bodies so hopefully that is a clue to how warped that last quarterfinal was.) I think I would have been much harsher on Gone Girl if it hadn’t just done that. As Steven once said, “it actually isn’t bad but CERTAINLY doesn’t deserve some of the hype it’s got. It’s an OK crime book! Totes fun! Not badly written! THAT’S ALL…. But also real talk Gone Girl just wasn’t that good yall!” Anyway more details were raised that certainly had merit: recession backdrop, projected vs actual selves, roles predetermined by money and looks. As for the other semi, I am sad to see The Orphan Master’s Son go but but Building Stories sounds amazing and the $65 price tag is becoming less dissuading with every judgement.
The next rounds will see two matches that I think should be really cut and dried. (What does that actually mean?) The Orphan Master’s Son is much much better than Gone Girl and having not read Building Stories I am confident that it is multiple times the book that TFioS is. So if track record is anything to go by the championship round will feature the two of the worst books in the tournament.