Nicola Twilley, in the 2023 Tournament of Books, on her “HBO-induced Emily St. John Mandel bias.”
If the painfully earnest members of the Traveling Symphony are only the kind of people who survive a pandemic, I would prefer not to. This makes no sense, because I actually enjoyed Station Eleven in book form, and the TV series doesn’t even follow the source material, but these kinds of prejudices don’t, necessarily.
I say all of this because I firmly believe that novels and their characters are extremely particular in who they speak to, and even when. Yes, good fiction can and should be able to strengthen and expand its readers’ empathy muscles, but the kind of magical experience that comes from really relishing the company of the characters and the world they live in—that’s an individual thing. In other words, I’m not even trying to be objective as a ToB judge, because I don’t think that’s how reading fiction works.
Emphasis mine. And note, she picked Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility over R.F. Kuang’s Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution.