Swann’s Way vs. A Storm in Flanders
Winner: Swann’s Way
Winner: Swann’s Way
I can’t say that Swann’s Way grabbed me deeply, but put up against A Storm in Flanders, there’s no real contest. Swann’s Way is not plot-heavy, but it is beautifully impressionistic in detail, capturing moments that were both familiar and strange. A Storm in Flanders was okay. Swann’s Way for the detail-oriented win!
A Passage to India vs. The Reality Dysfunction
Winner: A Passage to India
Weirdly, both of these books include sexual assault as a theme. But whereas it’s mostly window-dressing to make the villains in The Reality Dysfunction more villainy, it’s the starting point for a fascinating investigation of colonial power in A Passage to India. There was a lot I liked about The Reality Dysfunction, but its sexual politics left me with a bad taste in my mouth. A Passage to India it is!
Lord Jim vs. Quiet
Winner: Lord Jim
Is a nonfiction book ever going to win out against a fiction book? This was a difficult one, not because it was difficult to choose between them, but because neither grabbed me hard enough to make it an easy option. However, the consideration of masculinity in colonial settings just barely ekes it out over the satisfaction I got from reading about how introverts are awesome. (Did I do a fair amount of reading about colonialism past and future this year, or is it just me?)
The Idiot vs. Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Winner: The Idiot
When two books I don’t feel that strongly about are pitted against each other, I am worried that there’s a danger of me auto-picking the classic, to prove my intellectual worth, or some such nonsense. Still, while I enjoyed Behind The Scenes at the Museum, it was marred by a major flaw, and so I think that gives Dostoyevsky the edge. Prince Myshkin’s naivete and the reaction of society to him stand out much more strongly in my memory.
Roadside Picnic vs. When Will There Be Good News?
Winner: Roadside Picnic
Poor Kate Atkinson. I did generally like her books this year, but there were flaws in each that are hurting them in this early round. Roadside Picnic, on the other hand, is a well-deserved classic of science fiction. It is creepy, in its depiction of the waste left behind by an uncaring universe, and the effects of that waste on human society in general and in particular.