Monday, April 2, 2007

2007 Tournament of Books Winner: The Road

A month ago Nathan linked us to The Morning News' 2007 Tournament of Books, in which books from 2006 were pitted against each other in a no-holds barred battle. The final match pitted what I pegged as the pre-tourney favorite and the last book I read, The Road, against Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart, which was eliminated in the first round but brought back by reader demand.

As I predicted, The Road creamed the competition, 15-2. The two dissenters are two of the clownier figures of popular culture, Colin Meloy and Sasha Frere-Jones. Now, I'm a big fan of the Decemberists, but Meloy tends to come off a bit ridiculous in his more literary pursuits, and his review for the Tournament of Books for the match between The Lay of the Land and English, August was a long and painful extended metaphor. Frere-Jones is a music columnist for the New Yorker who embarrassed himself last year by foaming at the mouth over Stephin Merritt's nonexistent racism. Also, he gets an unfair shot in at Jonathan Safran Foer--I don't care who you are, if Everything is Illuminated didn't affect you, you must have been reading it with a flashlight inside your ass. Totally unsubstantiated claim: If his name were Gabriel Garcia Foer, everyone would think Illuminated is a masterpiece.

So, The Road wins. Some of the commenters intimated that The Road is a classic-type novel, something that will be remembered for years and years as one of the lynchpin novels of our time. That's certainly possible; I'm not sure how I feel about it myself but I can say without a doubt that I have never read anything like it and hope to never read anything like it again. I can't comment on Absurdistan, but something tells me that it's not quite up to the challenge of The Road.


Nihil Novum said...

That Frere-Jones thing was one of my favorite bits of last year.

Nathan said...

Funny, that's exactly how I read Everything Is Illuminated, and I loved every minute of it.