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My Judgmental Nature

Ah well, here goes... today of all days, Brockman has called in sick and it is up to me to remind readers that the Morning News's Tournament of Books continues today, and that the two books being judged are Never Let Me Go and The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole. And the judge is "yours truly."

It has been quite fun being involved in the judging of this, primarily because I get the inside scoop, and if there is one thing I don't deal well with, it is being kept in suspense! The down side of being part of the panel is that I had to be publicly judgmental. As my co-workers are well aware, I have pretty strong opinions about which books I do like and which books I don't. But making grand pronouncements in front of my friends about whose new novel sucked, or whose book I am in love with is one thing, criticizing books in front of an audience is another. Please feel free to comment on whether I was unfair or not! I'll be weighing in on the final round as well, and if there is any constructive criticism you'd like to throw my way, I'm all ears.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Never Let Me Go (05 Edition)
    Used Hardcover $15.00
  2. The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole Used Hardcover $9.95

7 Responses to "My Judgmental Nature"

    Bolton March 24th, 2006 at 9:34 am

    Strong opinions? Georgie?! I had no idea...

    Brockman March 24th, 2006 at 9:39 am


    Terribly sorry, Georgie. Feeling much better today, though.

    "... which I am sure has found loving readers, albeit readers with a different taste than mine."

    In other words: "How does he look?"
    "Well, he's got a great personality..."

    And, of course, only those who know you would realize that "I???m reminded of that quirkiness that makes John Irving???s books so popular" -- which in other hands might be enthusiastic, even gushing praise -- is the most damning indictment of them all.

    Georgie (Post Author) March 24th, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Aw shucks - yes, thank you Brockman, for pointing out my meanest comments!
    I thought Kevin Guilfoile's commentary on my piece was a tad hyperbolic though: "When we randomly assigned the pairings to judges, we didn???t know about the fainting-couch crush Georgie has on Ishiguro."

    I mean, for goodness sake, anyone who knows me knows that I reserve my fainting-couch for Mr. Jonathan Coe, and Jonathan Coe only!

    Amelia March 25th, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    I happened to love THE GREATEST MAN IN CEDAR HOLE. While I didn't agree with most of your complaints, they seemed valid enough, until the end when you said the book wasn't art. It came across as pretty cruel and unnecessary. Obviously, all the books on the list have artistic merit or they wouldn't be there in the first place. It seems to me that the tournament is conducted in the spirit of fun and reviews should be approached with a little tact and respect.

    redriver March 26th, 2006 at 11:53 am

    amelia - cruel? it's great that you enjoyed Greatest Man in Cedar Hole, and i'm glad you posted here because you're right - if the book was without merit how could it have been selected for the tournament? i haven't read it, so i can't comment. but lots of entertaining stories aren't quite art. or, they're not art in the same way that other books are. it's not so much 'high' art versus 'low' art as the fact that some books are a lot more inventive and original than others. that's just life. just as it's also true that people have tastes. i don't see why georgie should water down her opinion. why would i want to read the verdict of a judge that wasn't confident enough to be honest? lucky for doyon, georgie's is only one voice. plenty of reviewers agree with you about the novel, but i'm glad that georgie was willing (and had the space) to voice her dissent.

    Amelia March 26th, 2006 at 2:31 pm

    Georgie was asked to publicly judge, not be publicly judgmental. There IS a difference. All I'm saying is that she should have approached the review with the same level of diplomacy shown by the other judges.

    JimJohn March 27th, 2006 at 9:58 am

    Wow... a semantic debate about what does and doesn't constitute "art." It's like college all over again, minus the dorms!

    Personally I don't agree with Georgie's use of the word in her TOB review -- one person's art is another person's trash, so how can something so subjective be officially declared "art"? There will doubtless be people who consider Ishiguro navel-gazing nonsense and Cedar Hole a masterpiece.

    The notion of "inventive" and "original" in this case is certainly a questionable one: cloning has been a sci-fi mainstay for decades. In fact, the same summer Ishiguro's novel was published saw Michael Bay's film "The Island," which was also about harvesting clones. So I guess our standed must be originality of vision, not subject matter or plot?

    To say something is an entertaining story but "isn't quite art" -- well, I'd love to read the articles of the Constitution of Art that clearly outline the parameters.

    To make a qualitative judgement is simply too subjective. A work of fiction is either "art" or it isn't, keeping in mind that there can be "good art" and "bad art." In Georgie's opinion, to which she's perfectly entitled, Cedar Hole was clearly "bad art."

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