Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Brackets Are In Tatters

Okay, considering that I had Nation winning in both the "What I Think Will Win" bracket and the "What I Want To Win" Bracket, though they took different paths to get there... Nation's loss to The Lincolns was shocking. To be honest, it's almost enough to suck the enthusiasm out of the contest for me. (But it's not!)

I'm trying to decide how mean-spirited it's OK to be here. I already had doubts about the idea of this author being a judge for this contest. I don't think her writing is the same caliber as that of the other judges, and issues have been raised about traveling pants and appropriation of another author's work.

So when she wrote the following, I was not impressed:
"My instinct was to base my choice on apparent effort, I guess, and The Lincolns represents a remarkable amount of it. The volume of research both in the text and pictures is admirable. And this is where one of Mr. Pratchett's great gifts caused the loss. His book feels effervescent, ebullient, exciting and . . . almost effortless."

What on earth? She based her decision, not just on effort--which seems odd in the first place--but on APPARENT effort? Is she a writer at all? Does she somehow think it takes less skill to write a book that seems effortless?

The Lincolns is good, though I thought it suffered from giving too much information--I say this about most books, but it was really too long and too much, in my opinion--but I just can't imagine choosing it as a winner in any kind of contest, serious or not, over Nation, which is wise, funny, entertaining, and very well-suited to its audience.

It was sort of a surprise when Graceling was chosen over The Underneath, but I had a difficult time judging that one--as I mentioned before, Graceling is really not my thing. I disagreed with the judge's comment that the violence and alcoholism of The Underneath belonged in a YA book, not a middle grade book; I could give her lots of examples in classic middle grade literature, and I really think this is a case where that stuff in this book bothers adults more than kids; but it's not a match I was really invested in.

Until today, things had gone pretty well my way. But now I must restructure my brackets.

What I think will win:
Round 2: Kingdom on the Waves, Tender Morsels, The Hunger Games, The Lincolns.
Round 3: Kingdom on the Waves, The Hunger Games
Ultimate winner: The Hunger Games

What I want to win:
Round 2: Kingdom on the Waves, Tender Morsels, The Hunger Games, The Lincolns
Round 3: Tender Morsels, The Hunger Games
Ultimate winner: yeah, that's another hard one, but I'm going to go with The Hunger Games. Tender Morsels has better writing, but The Hunger Games is tighter and more compelling.


CAS said...

I read the first paragraph of your post on my RSS reader and immediately clicked through to the BoB match without reading the rest. I got to the same sentence and gaped at the screen in appalled disbelief... and then saw your comment and went back to read the rest of your post. I'm sure that you and I have just two of many jaws sore from hitting the ground.

Did the religious aspect of Nation put her off, I wonder? Would I even wonder that with a different judge? I wonder if my own reaction would be so appalled and skeptical if it were a different judge making this decision. I particularly dislike this judge's books, and once had a heated encounter in library school with another school librarian who preferred the Traveling Pants to Whale Talk because the girls' situations were "more realistic." I wish! But I do have to check myself here, because I'm probably allowing my reaction to be colored by my preconceptions. Still. Geez.

You probably remember from our Mock Newbery that I didn't care much for The Underneath, so I was glad that Graceling went on instead. I think the story was more original, the tone less saccharine, and the writing tighter and less overblown. However, The Underneath is probably just as strongly "not my thing" as Graceling was for you.

LaurieA-B said...

Graceling won because it is AWESOME. And it will defeat The Lincolns because, hello!, Katsa's grace is the power To Kill. There can be only one outcome. (Against The Lincolns, that is. Not so sure about Katsa vs. Katniss.)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm? I think that The Lincoln's addresses the trouble with looooong non-fiction that you write of in your entry. What Fleming has done with all three of her biograhies is found a format that allows readers to find their way into the subject's life-- all aspects, personal and public-- through bits and chunks that taken as a whole add up to much more. There are multiple ways of reading the book. You can read it cover to cover like a traditional chronology. You can find small moments in the Lincoln's lives and read about them without needing to read all. You can read the visual information (what I would have done as a kid) and learn of the Lincolns through visual biography.

Nation is a terrific book. It deserved to win this whole thing. But it's loss to the Lincoln's should not diminish the latter's merits. I'm still reeling a bit over how one compares a large visual biograhy to a fantasy novel, anyway. Seems silly to try since they have so little in common save the fact that they are sheets of paper between two covers. Having said that, what a fun way to talk about books.

Wendy said...

Exactly, a fun way to talk about books, and I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm taking myself too seriously here.

I do think The Lincolns had too much in it, even allowing for repeated dipping-in--I kept getting the feeling that Fleming wanted to include every bit she ever found. I'm sure she had a big file full of things she decided not to include, but the book felt crowded to me, with some pieces that could have been left out. But as I said, I still think it's a really good book. I enjoyed it very much.

No, my real problem here is not really with Nation losing to The Lincolns, but with the judge's stated reason for her choice, which I found bizarre and perhaps insulting to both books.

Laurie: I am of the opinion that one of the main reasons the organizers thought this up was in order to engineer a Katniss/Katsa battle.

Monica Edinger said...

Well if that was our reason (and it sure wasn't mine!), it ain't gonna happen --- see today's match!