In the first match of The Morning News’ Tournament of Books, Fae Myenne Ng’s Steer Toward Rock faced Roberto Bolano’s 2666. The judge, Brockman, used a risky basketball analogy to critique each novel on his way to selecting a winner. Though I can’t be sure—and I wouldn’t want you to quote me on it—I don’t think Brockman read 2666 in its entirety. From round one, it seems a forgone conclusion that Bolano’s mighty 900-page giant will stomp its way to victory.
Round one, match two—Netherland v. A Partisan’s Daughter—is a little tricksier to predict. The books seem to be similar in literary scope. Netherland enjoyed strong word of mouth this past fall, was a NYT Best 10 Books of 2008, and recently won the 2009 PEN/Faulkner award. The novel is set in post-9/11 NYC and has a focus on cricket and an unusual friendship. Some believe it was dissed by not being nominated for a National Book Award or a National Book Critics’ Circle award. A Partisan’s Daughter is “an oddball love story” set in 1970s London. It was written by Louis de Bernieres, who wrote the wildly popular Corelli’s Mandolin. I listened to Netherland and found it enjoyable, but I don’t see it going far in this year’s Tournament.
Kate Schlegel, TMN’s managing editor, is the judge for round one, match two. She has served as a judge in the previous four Tournaments and is fairly straightforward in her commentary. I predict she’ll choose Netherland.