Reader Letters

Defending a Decision

Dear Morning News Readers Who Think it Was Unfair That I Judged Díaz vs. Lippman Because I Already Have Read and Liked Díaz,

Are you batshit crazy? I mean that in the most evenhanded, levelheaded, unbiased way possible. If I loved an author’s first book, then I am less likely to like his second. That is because I am a literary author myself, and therefore embittered and unhappy to admire the works of others, and particularly unhappy to admire two books in a row. Nothing would have made me happier than to prefer What the Dead Know over The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Nevertheless, here is my revised list of connections to the books in the tournament. I teach Denis Johnson, too, and like 95 percent of the writers I know would give my left arm to have written Jesus’s Son. I loved Enduring Love but I didn’t like “Atonement” and I’m still pissed off that everyone else in the world did. I’ve read the descriptions of Shining at the Bottom of the Sea and I so love the idea that I really want to love the book. I like Tin House magazine and they publish Ovenman but I hate the cover. I have an aversion to lawyers-turned-novelists like Stephen L. Carter. I think Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is a great title, though upon reflection maybe for an album by a wan singer-songwriter. I can never remember what the order of the words is in the title of Brock Clarke’s novel; he seems like a sterling fellow. I have been meaning to read The Savage Detectives for so long I am terrified it cannot live up to everyone’s praise of it, though I have loved the pieces of Bolaño I have read. Until I looked closely I thought Petropolis was Persepolis and I still can’t shake the idea that it’s not a graphic novel. I have never read a Marianne Wiggins novel and am deeply embarrassed about it and so feel humiliated when I see her books reviewed and therefore disinclined to read them. I have never heard of Remainder but can only assume that it’s about books: Ick. I’ve already read and loved And Then We Came to the End but heck, he’s young and got a lot of attention for the book already. Jonathan Lethem has a cool last name. And Ann Patchett has twice plucked my eyebrows.

There. Now you know everything. It is anyone’s guess whether any of these things makes me more or less likely to admire a book once I actually read it.

Elizabeth McCracken
ToB judge

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