Wednesday March 23rd, 2011

Nox v. Next: Asymmetrical Warfare

nextI’m thrilled to be a judge in this year’s Tournament of Books, an annual treat for readers. The quarterfinal round I judged pitted James Hynes’ Next, a novel I had been meaning to read, against Anne Carson’s Nox, a highly stylized, fragmentary account of her relationship with her brother, who died suddenly in 2000. Here’s a piece of my decision:

[Next] is imperfect but powerful. It’s built to linger. This is partly due to its audacious final section. It’s hard to discuss Next in a meaningful way without giving away its ending. I won’t spoil it here, though it’s hardly a Crying Game-level shock when the novel pulls down its drawers. Having read some coy reviews at the time of Next’s publication, I had a pretty good idea of the surprise’s general nature. Still, the way Hynes orchestrates his final 50 pages, switching between a firecracker climax and the increasingly profound reminiscences of his protagonist, is impressive.

It was a pretty easy call for me, and the full explanation can be found here. I have further thoughts about why I enjoy the tournament so much, but I’ll save those for a post around the time of the final round — for which I’ll be part of a full panel of judges crowning the champ.