March Madness

March Madness is upon us. By which, of course, we mean The Morning News Tournament of Books, the literary world’s antidote to college basketball—or, perhaps, its capitulation to the national obsession with bracketology. There are some serious problems with this year’s tournament: Notably, the absence of any FSG Originals titles (how do you have a no-holds-barred competition and not include Donnybrook?), and specifically, the failure of The Isle of Youth (or even Originals’ hardcover-favorite Hild) to move from the long list into the tourney itself, presumably because the organizers were looking to preserve some element of parity and suspense in the competition. But the panel of judges is acceptable—we’re looking forward to reading John Darnielle weigh in next week, and of course John Freeman are famous for their irresistible discernment. But the smart set says the real action is in the comments section. And how can we disagree when today’s Match Commentary opens with:

I thought Freeman’s judgment was tremendous—it’s not surprising for those of us who know his work (I highly recommend How to Read a Novelist)...

The (also not surprising) fact is, we don’t disagree at all—Freeman’s judgment is in fact tremendous, and that fact that the tremendousness is unsurprising shouldn’t stop you from reading his noble effort to step beween The Son and Eleanor and Park, a pair of books who’ve clearly been itching for a match-up all year long. It may not be 2014’s great Cinderella story (but maybe it is! No spoilers here!), it’s well worth reading—an eloquent and inspiring example of a critic reading two very different, accomplished books on their own terms, and then unapologetically doing what the Tournament demands: anointing the better book. Naturally, we also agree that that sheer tremendousness of Freeman’s judgment should spur you to read How to Read a Novelist. It is in fact chock-full of upsets, nail-biters, and Cinderella stories.

Posted 03/20/14 Posted March 20, 2014