The Morning News

The Morning News Tournament of Books

The Tournament of Books is an annual battle royale between 16 of the best novels published in the previous year.

A new match is played here each weekday in March.

The 2009 ToB Contenders List

The 2009 Judges & Brackets

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Previous years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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judged by Andrew Womack
This was a squeaker.

Where 2666 is bombast, a triumph of imagery, A Mercy is a tiny masterpiece, deftly told. Where Bolaño effuses, carving great thicknesses of paint upon the canvas, Morrison exacts a tale of equal depth with an economy of words. Both authors get where they mean to go—and pushed my senses in so many ways along the way—though arrive there by very different paths. Neither story, in fact, is superior to the other.

And here, for once, the scale of Bolaño’s novel wasn’t going to work against him. Given A Mercy’s slender presence, the two books read together equaled the size of two respectable novels. However, I do suspect 2666 could have been a great deal shorter; likewise, A Mercy could have told a larger story—and over a lot more pages.

So, why a squeaker? Because the gulf in these comparisons kills all the above arguments. So for me, it came down to my reading experience.

I marched my way through 2666, and was exhausted—thrilled, but exhausted—each time I set it down. I pushed through A Mercy in three bouts, and at the end of each sitting felt I’d returned from a journey. Because where Bolaño pounds away with unrelenting imagery and blind plotlines, Morrison points you in the direction and lets you figure out the rest. She captures the magic of what reading a novel should be: transportive, not just narrative.

It’s the style of A Mercy that makes Morrison’s novel the more rewarding of the two—the one I’d recommend you read to capture the same experience I had—and the one I’m pushing through to the Finals.

Today’s WINNER

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

About the Judge

ToB Co-Chair Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. You can follow him on Twitter here. Known connections to this year’s contenders: None.

From the Booth

2666 is probably a novel that’s more about the experience of reading it. The only way to get a handle on this book is to open it up and start reading. Kevin John The Rookie of the Year Award goes to our commenters. The audience comments are, by far, the most interesting new feature of the tournament, perhaps ever.
» Read Kevin Guilfoile & John Warner’s commentary on the match and leave a comment of your own «

The Peanut Gallery

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