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2016 Tournament of Books > 2nd half Opening Rounds TOB 2016

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message 1: by Amy (last edited Mar 15, 2016 07:40AM) (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments This is the placeholder thread for the 2nd half of the Opening brackets of the 2016 TOB running March 15-March 18.

March 15: ROUND 5 judged by Choire Sicha - A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara vs. The New World by Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz
March 16: ROUND 6 judged by Doree Shafrir - The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard vs. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
March 17: ROUND 7 judged by Daniel Wallace - Play-In Winner vs. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
March 18: ROUND 8 judged by Liz Lopatto - The Sellout by Paul Beatty vs. The Invaders by Karolina Waclawiak


message 2: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Amy wrote: "This is the placeholder thread for the 2nd half of the Opening brackets of the 2016 TOB running March 15-March 18.

March 15: ROUND 5 judged by Choire Sicha - A Little Life by [auth..."


Amy, the link for The New World actually goes to Brave New World.


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments Drew wrote: "Amy, the link for The New World actually goes to Brave New World.
Thanks! Fixed it!


message 5: by Sara G (new)

Sara G I actually held my breath as I read it because it seemed like it could go either way! Judge Sicha did an excellent job ramping up the tension after a few dry judgments.


message 6: by Sherri (new)

Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments I had such conflicted feelings about A Little Life that I dreaded reading a judgment I assumed would be all love or all hate. This judgment was a relief to me, and it made it feel "ok" to both love and hate a book.


message 7: by Amy (last edited Mar 15, 2016 07:35AM) (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments An amazing write-up from the judge as hoped. I think this is the most the commentators have ignored the loser afterwards so it seems like everyone wants to talk talk talk about the winner... Exorcising demons perhaps?


message 8: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Ok, now I have the mental image of all these little guys in imp suits in a Jazzercise class and lifting weights. Thanks for that.


message 9: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments Sherri wrote: "I had such conflicted feelings about A Little Life that I dreaded reading a judgment I assumed would be all love or all hate. This judgment was a relief to me, and it made it feel "ok" to both love..."

Kevin said "I can't think of a reading experience that is simultaneously so irresistible and unpleasant." -- I haven't read L'il Life and really besides rabid fan-dom, no one has explained their loyalty in a way that makes me want to read it. I had the "irresistible and unpleasant" experience with The Road and I am pretty sure I would tell my past self "don't pick it up!" given the chance.


message 10: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments I am unrepentant in my fairly uncritical love for A Little Life -- and Hanya Yanagihara, since The People in the Trees is probably THE book that unexpectedly blew me away in the past 5 years. Yes, it's manipulative. Yes, it is frankly unbelievable. But to me, it had an emotional depth and truth that ripped me apart. Can't recommend it to anyone, of course, any more than I can recommend The People in the Trees, or at least I'd have to be extremely careful of whom I recommended either to -- but it blew me away. Second only to The People in the Trees, maybe even. So I applaud the outcome of the decision.


message 11: by Heather (last edited Mar 15, 2016 07:50AM) (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 308 comments Ellen wrote: "I am unrepentant in my fairly uncritical love for A Little Life -- and Hanya Yanagihara, since The People in the Trees is probably THE book that unexpectedly blew me away in the past 5 years. Yes, ..."

I'm with you on both books. And I did make the mistake of recommending both to a bunch of people; pretty sure my friend to whom I recommended The People in the Trees is still scarred by it! (But everyone to whom I recommended ALL loved it too, although a few told me I should have warned them first about its unrelenting grimness.)


message 12: by Ed (new)

Ed (edzafe) | 168 comments Great take/judgment re: ALL ... while I think Judge Sicha was more infuriated by it than myself, my GR review was about all the issues I had with it, but that I still ended up rating it high (4 stars) and ranking it high among the ToB field.

And kudos to Kevin in commentary for the "Jude is a foie gras duck none of us can save." line.


message 13: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments Yes, I loved that line, too.


message 14: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Ed wrote: "Great take/judgment re: ALL ... while I think Judge Sicha was more infuriated by it than myself, my GR review was about all the issues I had with it, but that I still ended up rating it high (4 sta..."

I loved TPitT and raced out to the library to get L'il Life as soon as it was available. I found it both irresistible and infuriating - mostly infuriating. I'm not even going to go any further or this is liable to end up a rant.

I am so grateful I wasn't judging this round. As much as I disliked L'il Life, TNW just petered out. Parts of it were very good but then it was just ... gone.


message 15: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments I liked the way Sicha 1) wrote a well reasoned and extremely negative review of A Little LIfe, and yet 2) still advanced it, and wrote a very well-reasoned argument why. I didn't see that as a possible outcome, also because it's not just a "the other book was worse" decision--it was nuanced and interesting.


message 16: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments I am very happy for the conversations this is bringing about... though that might be a loose term for the split shouting match that is occurring. :) I feel like I should pop some popcorn!


message 17: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments poingu wrote: "I liked the way Sicha 1) wrote a well reasoned and extremely negative review of A Little LIfe, and yet 2) still advanced it, and wrote a very well-reasoned argument why. I didn't see that as a poss..."
yup. the decision write-up we've all been waiting for!


message 18: by AmberBug (new)

AmberBug com* | 444 comments Sorry everyone! My best friend had her baby and I've been busy snuggling the new bundle of cuteness.

Whew, A Little Life is still alive - that ruling had me sweating. I was almost tempted to re-read A Little Life to have it fresh in my mind and give great examples of why this novel is so fantastic. However, I realized that this is a "feels" book and everyone who read the book and loved it - they mostly agree about the flaws.

Can you believe that I still have feelings for these characters and I read this book as an ARC over a year and a half ago??


message 19: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalita) | 5 comments AmberBug wrote: "Sorry everyone! My best friend had her baby and I've been busy snuggling the new bundle of cuteness.

Whew, A Little Life is still alive - that ruling had me sweating. I was almost tempted to re-r..."


I also have feelings for the characters Amber! I loved the book too and while I understand why many didn't, it's the characters that keep me loving it.


message 20: by Trish (new)

Trish | 33 comments I loved the judging today - I actually thought he might go with New World for a minute, and he reminded me why I liked New World so much (as did @Willie Hughes' 20 page side by side comparison). But it did bring up something for me - I actually wish I had never read ALL. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other book I'd say that about - normally I would just put a book down after 50-100 pages. So what was it about ALL that made me continue? (and I don't think I can blame TOB itself, although I am pretty compulsive about trying to read the TOB books). I think I kept longing for a happy ending, or some big wisdom reveal - some life truth I needed to learn.


message 21: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments are folks not commenting here because they're getting so much angst out on TMN? (or helping Nozlee win her # of comments bet?)


message 22: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Amy wrote: "are folks not commenting here because they're getting so much angst out on TMN? (or helping Nozlee win her # of comments bet?)"

Hey, free beer is free beer even if it is free beer for someone else!


message 23: by Drew (last edited Mar 15, 2016 06:34PM) (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments I've been on TMN catching up on the comments and I am so impressed with the effort people are putting into it. I didn't like ALL but I have gotten so much out of the comments both pro and con. I can now articulate WHY I didn't like it and appreciate what others got out of it. This is a darn good thing since I'll be spending the weekend with a friend who gave it 5 stars!


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 15, 2016 06:01PM) (new)

poingu wrote: "I liked the way Sicha 1) wrote a well reasoned and extremely negative review of A Little LIfe, and yet 2) still advanced it, and wrote a very well-reasoned argument why. I didn't see that as a poss..."

I agree. I was expecting either unabashed praise or scorn for ALL, so Sicha's judgment was a welcome surprise to me. I know many people were looking forward to today's match, but I'm all about tomorrow. Go Tsar!


message 25: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (teresakayep) | 30 comments I'm enjoying the conversation, too! Lots of people who have strong opinions but still want to understand why others saw the book differently. When the book was first published, I just kept seeing people talk about it being moving and sad, but I didn't find it moving and was left thinking that it was simply manipulative. I'm enjoying seeing people who love the book engaging with its flaws and even defending them. Not that the conversation has changed my mind, but I'm enjoying it and looking forward to the trouncing A Li'l Life will get from Tsar next week!


message 26: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Teresa wrote: "Not that the conversation has changed my mind, but I'm enjoying it and looking forward to the trouncing A Li'l Life will get from Tsar next week! "

Yes, that!


message 27: by Sherri (new)

Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments I just looked back at my review of ALL since it's been a while. My update comments show the back and forth I felt. 600 pages to go and I'm bored. This book needs to end. It's getting better. She's a beautiful writer. And finally, I've never felt so drained by a book. And then I gave it 4 stars.

Months later when I look back at the experience, I remember feeling irritated for most of the book, and then getting sucked in and crying myself to sleep at 2 am when I finallyfinished it.

The only other book I've reacted to in a similar way was An Untamed State. I think I even change my rating three times on that one. Again, I spent most of that book rolling my eyes and cursing Roxane Gay. The next thing I knew, I was a blubbering mess and had to go to work late because I couldn't get myself together.


message 28: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 15, 2016 10:55PM) (new)

Sherri wrote: "The only other book I've reacted to in a similar way was An Untamed State...."

I first heard about ALL during 2015 ToB, but I put off reading it because I was still emotionally drained from A Brief History of Seven Killings and An Untamed State. As horrible as Mari's suffering was in AUS, we knew from the outset how many days it would last and that she would survive it. That's the only reason I made it through the book, and though I wanted to scrub it out of my brain, I'm glad I read it. Not so with A Little Life. Jude's suffering was so relentless that it became unbelievable to me. My tears dried up, and they were replaced with sighs of frustration. I gave up on it before I went from dislike to hate, and skimmed the last 200 pages.


message 29: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 299 comments Amy wrote: "Sherri wrote: "I had such conflicted feelings about A Little Life that I dreaded reading a judgment I assumed would be all love or all hate. This judgment was a relief to me, and it made it feel "o..."

I too love Kevin's statement as it certainly describes my reaction to ALL. I just could not turn away from it, yet kept reading it and ended up in the camp of "in favor of it".


message 30: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments today's match posted - should be a break from all the controversy of yesterday!


message 31: by AmberBug (new)

AmberBug com* | 444 comments I think everyone is pretty much in agreement with this one.

Can I just leave this here:

A Little Life vs. The Tsar of Love and Techno

Oh boy!


message 32: by Ellen (new)

Ellen H | 764 comments That match-up anywhere but in the finals makes me vewy, vewy nervous, AmberBug.


message 33: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments Indeed! Rabid fan bases!


message 34: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments This must be a web writing thing, where people just think they can write whatever? Anyone who writes HOLY SHIT in caps, and I stop feeling like I need to read to the end. If you're going to criticize someone else's writing you should be able to write a little better than "high school chat" style.


message 35: by AmberBug (new)

AmberBug com* | 444 comments I'm not sure I agree. I like the casual quality of the judgings, not to mention this is what the TOB is all about. It isn't a stuffy literary prize, it's fun and shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Personally, I do this on a day to day basis with my blog. I write casual reviews and my writing reflects my personality. I don't think that means my opinion hardly matters... if anything, I would hope I connect with people more based on my accessibility.


message 36: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments AmberBug wrote: "I'm not sure I agree. I like the casual quality of the judgings, not to mention this is what the TOB is all about. It isn't a stuffy literary prize, it's fun and shouldn't be taken too seriously.
..."


Yes, I clearly am an outlier with the level it bothers me. Because I find this level of casualness very off-putting. The play-in round where they actually wrote "uh" and used the "F" word really dampened my enthusiasm for reading on.

btw I don't think your blog is anything like that, Amber.

It doesn't need to be academic writing--of course not--but the level of informality adopted in a couple of these decisions feels unpleasant for me to read. I feel like someone is asking me to listen carefully to non-careful thinking--why should I?

Also: It's just as mannered as any other style--a forced informality that I find disrespectful, when they're writing about writing.


message 37: by AmberBug (last edited Mar 16, 2016 10:12AM) (new)

AmberBug com* | 444 comments poingu wrote: "AmberBug wrote: "I'm not sure I agree. I like the casual quality of the judgings, not to mention this is what the TOB is all about. It isn't a stuffy literary prize, it's fun and shouldn't be taken..."

I completely agree with you on the first judging. The swears bother me too. I have noticed that the writing has switched gears a little on certain pop sites. I like a little "slang" (brings me back to Les Miserables and his arguement on how important it is to embrace slang), Bookriot is a great example of the casual, slangy, style I tend to embrace.

Although I cringe when my significant other basterdizes the English language on purpose... I like when words emerge from clever mixing. One of my favorite is "bookternet".

Also, thanks Poingu, I constantly am worrying about my writing (something I believe all writers do).


message 38: by Amy (last edited Mar 16, 2016 10:17AM) (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments I'm a waffler on this one actually. I really like the conversational style of the decisions... as if the judge is having their agonized heart-to-heart with us to explain themselves. And the use of casual/social-network-created terms like 'the feels' or 'shipping' as well as the use of cursing can be seen as an effective device for effect along the same lines that breaking more traditional rules like "avoid passive voice" sometimes hits exactly the right note. ("He is dead.")
Often the casual terms make me laugh or feel right along with the writer. I'm reminded of hanging out with my bookclub where we feel safe to say 'this sucked!' or 'you're crazy! I loved it!'
BUT. There's a but. Nearly everyone seems to be doing this in their decisions. In spades. Poingu made me sensitive to it, but without that, my tolerance would still be waning. It's difficult to be heard speaking about a writer's style and quoting them when the commentary doesn't match the effort made by the authors.
On the other hand, sometimes the 'literati' made me gag on previous self-congratulatory reviews that made it clear "I hold an MFA and would never deign to lower myself to genre readers." So I don't know. I think in TOB, I prefer to err on the side of the casual. But I wish we were closer to the line.


message 39: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments I'm really sorry to be such a stick in the mud!


message 40: by AmberBug (new)

AmberBug com* | 444 comments No, you're not a stick in the mud! If it bothers you... it bothers you! You can't deny your feelings. :)


message 41: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1690 comments This is reminding me; did anyone pay attention to the conversation yesterday regarding L'il Life's suspected fan fic origins?? I haven't read fan fic (that I know of) so am unfamiliar with the stylizations and themes they were pointing out but was tickled that Yanagihara may have just elevated the form to the Big Awards level. If its at all true, it says a lot about alternative resources for developing writing ability and style as well as the silliness in debating high vs. low brow categorizing.


message 42: by Sara G (new)

Sara G I loved the fanfic discussion but no one had a convincing argument that she was purposefully adapting fanfic tropes. It might have been mere coincidence.


message 43: by Sherri (new)

Sherri (sherribark) | 358 comments I didn't finish reading today's judgment either. I love having so many different styles of judgments, but this particular one didn't work for me. I can't wait till we get to Jeff Vandermeer!


message 44: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 422 comments Amy wrote: "This is reminding me; did anyone pay attention to the conversation yesterday regarding L'il Life's suspected fan fic origins?? I haven't read fan fic (that I know of) so am unfamiliar with the styl..."

I found that really fascinating. It's something I barely knew existed! Whether or not Yanagihara was adopting fanfic tropes, it was interesting to consider.


message 45: by Trish (new)

Trish | 33 comments I found the fanfic thread to be the most enlightening conversation yesterday. It was fascinating to hear about a type of writing that I am wholly unfamiliar with, and it did seem to explain a lot of the tropes and styles in L'il Life.


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Is it wrong that I exclaimed, "Whoo Hoo!" when I went straight to the end to see that Tsar had been advanced? I felt a little awkward about my glee when I read through the judgment and was reminded of the grim content of both books. But then, never mind! No guilty consciences allowed in the ToB!

I agree that the casual style of the write-up was a bit off-putting, but it seemed to me that she gave each book its due. I liked her reasoning in choosing Tsar, though I don't think it should have been a close call between the two books.


message 47: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments oh, poingu, i love your strong opinions because you give focus to mine, which seem quite often to be in entire disagreement! this is the first judgment i felt the need to read out loud to someone! it's funny! hey do you think the avoidance of slang du jour should be avoided everywhere in the written form (other than email, fb, texts, etc.)? cuz i just finished to read Lit, which no one can accuse to be written poorly or sloppily (no one can right?), and the use of profanities and slang is off the charts. and yet, so effective. so powerful. so beautiful.

i am going to go with whoever said that choire sacha wrote the best judgment. lovely writing, and he said all we had wanted to say about ALL all along but were unable to. and btw, i don't think he didn't like it. i just think that, like all of us, he loved it yet.... oh, he says it super well, no need for me to repeat it.

given today's judgment, i am not reading either Tsar or Aron (i returned the latter to the library unread some time ago, cuz one can take only so much pummeling). can we have a little convo about the need of so many of these books to brutalize the reader completely? i just read the first Tania James novel, Atlas of Unknowns, and i had to weep in gratitude at the fact that, although it has its own sads (see what i'm doing here?) and tragedies, it still manages to leave you breathing full lungfuls at the end, and, also, feeling you can, actually, recommend it to someone. so many 2015 books were just fucking brutal. ALL, F&F, today's two, The Fishermen (which i haven't yet managed to finish), Under the Udala Trees, Under The Visible Life, Gold Fame Citrus, Fifteen Dogs, The New World, A Cure for Suicide. thank goodness for The Turner House and Spool of Blue Thread, which btw were not walks in the park either, cuz, where did the time-honored tradition of giving us comforting endings go? and then these decent book, these sweet sweet books that don't drag you on jagged rocks for pages and pages, get pronounced solid. wut.

oh, did i forget our very own winner, Sweetland? have we become a culture of masochists?!?


message 48: by AmberBug (new)

AmberBug com* | 444 comments jo wrote: "oh, poingu, i love your strong opinions because you give focus to mine, which seem quite often to be in entire disagreement! this is the first judgment i felt the need to read out loud to someone! ..."

You really should read Tsar, the brutality is offset by sparkle and humor thrown in.


message 49: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Fields | 77 comments I second that!


message 50: by Heather (new)

Heather (hlynhart) | 308 comments Yeah I don't see Tsar as a grim book in the least, despite its subject matter.


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