The Morning News

The Morning News Tournament of Books, sponsored by Powell’s Books, is an annual battle royale amongst the top novels in “literary fiction” published throughout the year. Read more about this year’s tournament »

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Powell's Books


March 17, 2008

On Chesil Beach



judged by ZE FRANK

Book: McEwan’s On Chesil Beach

Honest Expectation: A beautiful meandering tale that, in part, takes place on or near a beach most likely named Chesil.

Secret Hope: Vampires.

Dig: Meaty characters. Literally. She’s a big boned beauty and he’s a country manboy with large hands. I want to sit between them on a roller coaster. Also, McEwan offers up my new favorite pick-up line: “Very well, you may kiss my vibrato.” I’ll try it out at the Hog Pit.

Interior Monologue: Enchanting, so delicate, I wish I didn’t read in big mouthfuls. This is certainly stuff someone else could savor. So much sacrifice and delayed gratification. Just feel the tension building. Wait…Oh my God! Was that? Holy! A premature ejaculation all over page 130! And some bits got onto page 131 and 132. This is a first for me: the climax of a book actually forestalled by a main character “arriving too soon.” Bravo Mr. McEwan! Arriving too soon! Now I get it.

Wait for: The true release—delirious dialogue on Chesil Beach (I told you so).

Takeaway: Don’t stop masturbating the week before your wedding.

• •

Book: McCarthy’s Remainder

Honest Expectation: None. The blurbs had lots of adjectives like “strange,” “chilly,” and” brilliant,” but very few nouns. Maybe something having to do with math?

Secret Hope: It would suck, radically.

Dig: This book was strange, chilly, and possibly brilliant. There were moments that affected my breathing. Really. And I think I might like being addicted to heroin.

Interior Monologue: Dude. This is like Proust on acid. Is he writing about writing? A cautionary tale about creation and control? Getting caught up in the fractal-like yawn of increasing magnifications of detail? I’ve heard that people with autism experience this, walking around the same puddle endlessly, each change in reflection creating a new puddle to contemplate. Madness? Ecstasy? Shit, I’m starting to think like him. All those figure eights are a bit heavy handed. But what do you expect from a God. Complex.

Wait for: The scene in which McCarthy plays with a miniature that is playing with miniatures.

Takeaway: Don’t work for people who got hit by scaffolding.

• •

Overall: McEwan has written a lovely book I wish I loved. I wish I were older, wiser, that nostalgia had more of a hold on me, and that I didn’t still inwardly giggle at premature ejaculations. I’m too silly, and the book is too pretty. It arrived too soon. He’ll understand.

McCarthy, despite his best efforts to bore the crap out of me in the first few chapters, winds up spraying his scent all over the corner of Smart and Daring. I hope he spends the rest of his career burying these two qualities deeper and deeper into his work until one day he writes a book about two young lovers on a beach… and a vampire.

Winner: Remainder.

• Today’s WINNER •


• About the Judge •

Ze Frank is an online performance artist, composer, humorist, and public speaker based in Brooklyn. Connections to this year’s competitors: “I have no connections to any of the competitors.”

• From the Booth •

I think the majority of us want to know what something is going to taste like before we put it in our mouth. Kevin John The allure of the first-time novelist has always been prevalent in publishing, because there’s nothing like that first date, where all things are possible.
» Read Kevin Guilfoile & John Warner’s commentary on the match «

• The Peanut Gallery •

Do you agree with the outcome of this match?

absolutely   no way

The Standings


• Round One •

Tree of Smoke v. Ovenman
judged by Tobias Seamon

The Savage Detectives v. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
judged by Elizabeth Kiem

Then We Came to the End v. Petropolis
judged by Anthony Doerr

You Don’t Love Me Yet v. New England White
judged by Jessica Francis Kane

Run v. Shining at the Bottom of the Sea
judged by Kate Schlegel

What the Dead Know v. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
judged by Elizabeth McCracken

On Chesil Beach v. Remainder
judged by Ze Frank

The Shadow Catcher v. An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England
judged by Helen DeWitt

• Round Two •

Tree of Smoke v. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
judged by Mark Sarvas

Then We Came to the End v. You Don’t Love Me Yet
judged by Maud Newton

Shining at the Bottom of the Sea v. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
judged by Ted Genoways

Remainder v. The Shadow Catcher
judged by Mark Liberman


Tree of Smoke v. Then We Came to the End
judged by Gary Shteyngart

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao v. The Shadow Catcher
judged by Nick Hornby


Then We Came to the End v. Remainder
judged by Rosecrans Baldwin

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao v. The Savage Detectives
judged by Andrew Womack


Remainder v. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
All Judges + Jennifer Szalai