Reader Letters

In Appreciation

Dear Mr. Warner,

I just wanted to thank you for your candid and insightful commentary on the second-round Tournament of Books matchup between Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke and Vendela Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.

I think Vida’s was the most critically overlooked novel of 2007. I worked at an independent bookstore last year (Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle) and spent a lot of time trying to convince coworkers and customers to read it. I must admit to feeling disappointment when I saw it matched up in the first round against The Savage Detectives (a book that no one needed much persuading to read, or at least purchase), and I resigned myself to clicking the “no way” button in response to the judge’s inevitable selection of Bolaño.

I knew it would be too much to expect Vida’s harrowingly lovely book to beat two of last year’s biggest, but I was comforted by your commentary and just wanted to pass along my appreciation.

I was especially interested in your comments about critical “certainty.” It helped me figure out why Sarvas’s decision irked me where McCracken’s, despite its bias, did not. It seems to have to do with tone, some kind of slippery difference between “this is my taste” vs. “this should be all our taste”… It’s probably got a lot more to do with that “wave of a hand,” but in any case, you’ve given me a lot to think about this morning. Thanks again for your astute commentary and for championing such fine books.

Elizabeth Ames Staudt

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