My Befuddled Head Just Exploded

I love tournaments in March—especially ones involving screamin’ Gus Johnson—but my love for the Morning News Tournament of Books ended this morning with The Savage Detectives being upset in the first round by Vendela Vida’s Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.

It’s really not the who that bugs me—I know Vida’s got quite a following, and has obvious talent—but the why:

The Savage Detectives is complex, intellectual, and cool. I’m sure if I were to reread it I would pick up many subtleties and ambitions. Possibly, also, its importance—of which I’m passively convinced, but which has eluded me. [. . .]

So it comes to this: The world (and my bookcase) is full of carefully crafted puzzles and dense, demanding novels that must, and will, be read again and again. As such, they (being Bely and Faulkner, Sebald and Pavic, Gaddis and Gadda) are the darlings of my personal library. But I will not be re-reading Bolaño, because his playfulness is coarse and his crypticism is narrow.

The winner is Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name—a peculiar story that I will never re-read, because it was completely satisfactory the first time through. And these days, I’m all about immediate gratification and simple pleasures.

Umm, yeah. I can’t say anything nice, so I’ll end by pointing out that 74% of readers disagree with Elizabeth Kiem’s decision.

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