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12th March
written by Steph
I suppose this round’s outcome counts as yet another upset in the sense that a top seed was unseated by a lower-seeded book, but I am anything but upset!  I was so glad to read that the judge, Mary Roach, agreed with my sentiments of the ultimate boredom & repetitiveness factor regarding Unaccustomed Earth.  Do I think Lahiri is a talented writer?  Definitely.  But do I think she would have been better served (or perhaps to be more accurate, I would have been better served) by just writing a novel rather than a short story collection here?  Yes. Next up is Shadow Country against The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  I’m not sure at all how this will go, because all I know about Shadow Country is that it is a behemoth of 2666 proportions (read: 900+ pages).  I think this one will come down to what the judge has a tolerance for.  It’s hard to see how a quick reading YA novel will fare against something of sterner stuff, but the real issues is whether those 900+ pages are any good…  I think I'm going to pick Shadow Country for the victor here, but really your guess is as good as mine!


  1. 03/12/2009

    That’s interesting. I haven’t read City of Refuge, but Lahiri is everyone’s darling, so I am amazed that she wouldn’t come out on top. Although I thought Unaccustomed Earth was excellent, I must agree: I think her novel The Namesake is the best thing she’s written. I think that form suits her style better.

  2. 03/12/2009

    I’ve only read Lahiri’s first volume of stories, which I liked a lot. But I’m very intrigued to read the novel and the second stories now.

    This tournament is quite an interesting idea.

  3. 03/12/2009

    @ priscilla: I took out a copy of City of Refuge from the library, but it smelled so strongly of someone’s perfume that it literally made me sick to hold it… so I returned it and haven’t ventured to get another copy. Depending on how far it goes in the tournament, I might have to get over my irrational aversion and try it again!

    If Lahiri had shown more range in her stories with respect to plotting and actual details (i.e., setting, profession, obstacles), I would have liked her collection more. I felt that each story looked at the exact same cross-section of Bengali immigrants, and as a result, I felt there was no need for her to write 8 nearly identical stories.
    @ Rebecca: I’ve heard through the grapevine that people who’ve read her two story collections think the first one is her strongest, and the second is just rehashing old turf covered in the first. I personally thought that every story in Unaccustomed Earth was interchangeable with every other, and I was really underwhelmed and disappointed. I think if I were to try something else by her, it would be her novel, The Namesake.

  4. 03/13/2009

    I was sure “Unaccustomed Earth” would win, but boy was I wrong! I’ve added “City of Refuge” to my “must-have” list. Roach made it sound that good and those in the Peanut Gallery had some pretty great things to say about it too.

  5. 03/13/2009

    I think City of Refuge might wind up being a sleeper hit this year! It seems to have escaped most people’s notice leading up to the tournament (perhaps due to its lack of availability as mentioned in the commentary section), but it sounds like it packs quite the wallop. I think it goes up against Harry, Revised in the next round – if so, I think it will win again, but I’ll save that prediction for the relevant post! 😉

  6. 03/13/2009

    I detested Unaccustomed Earth for all the reasons you mentioned, but as I have yet to read the other book, I can’t really comment.

    Sorry if you’ve already addressed this, but who chooses the books for ToB?

  7. 03/13/2009

    All I know about the book selection is that it’s done by the people over at The Morning News who run the tournament. In terms of which books they choose, they’re apparently the 16 notable books of the year, but that seems pretty arbitrary as several of these books were not in my consciousness prior to the list of books being announced (e.g., City of Refuge).

  8. 03/14/2009

    In respect of the fact I enjoyed The Namesake tremendously and that I almost put Jhumpa Lahiri among my pantheon of authors, I cannot keep up with Unaccustomed earth after the second story. I began to discern her formulaic pavement of her characters and plot. Maybe it’s not meant to read all at once.

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