The Scarlet L (for Loser)

I'm a loser, right off the bat. But in all fairness, I told you I might be.
Who is not a loser? John Green.
I didn't call the winning book in the first round of the Tournament of Books. Today, judge Edan Lepucki (staff writer for The Millions) selected The Fault in Our Stars over The Round House.
If you've been following along on this blog (and I know you have), then you saw my call for The Round House here.
Lepucki's commentary is spot-on and fair, for the most part. He calls out author John Green for making the teens Hazel and Augustus a little too glib and charming in Stars, even comparing their patter to the movie Juno. I agree. I also liked TOB commentator John Warner's comparison of Green to John Hughes. That's true, too.
But where Lepucki and I will have to disagree is on the point he makes about Louise Erdrich's inability to take the reader from "idea to experience."
One of my most-important gauges of a writer's talent is that very ability, to immerse me so thoroughly that when I look up from the book I'm almost disoriented. It isn't just a matter of being "true to life," it's to convince me that what I'm reading is real and that I'm living it alongside the characters.
Erdrich's writing pulled me right into hot summer days on a reservation in North Dakota, and the fear and pain that surrounds the crime at the center of the novel. As much as I loved Stars, it was just a bit too over-the-top and almost implausible in places (for example, the spontaneous trip to The Netherlands for two teens with cancer). Lepucki himself even admits that he found Green's book to be "too slick" and "contrived" in places.
Yes, this was a hard call.  In fact, if Lepucki had selected The Round House, I'd probably be telling you about how I cried and cried over Stars, and how he really should have selected it as the winner.
But I'm a loser, baby.
On to tomorrow, and the head-to-head battle between The Orphan Master's Son and Where'd You Go Bernadette?. Cross your fingers for me.

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