This Sunday the brackets will be revealed for the NCAA March Madness basketball tourney, but that’s not the I’m anticipating. The funniest, most enjoyable, and completely irreverent book competition launches tomorrow – the Tournament of Books. Several years ago, a bunch of book geeks (probably inebriated book-a-holics) wondered why basketball should have all the fun? Why not pit one book against another in a sweet sixteen match to the death? Or, should I say, to the Rooster, because the winner of this literary mash up receives a live rooster. Just what I’m sure Claire is daydreaming about right now as she scrambles to finish the last draft of her latest novel. All that work to earn a rooster pooping all over her back lawn. Now that she’s a vegetarian, she couldn’t even eat it. Do people eat rooster?
There’s a different judge for each match up, some are editors or at-large-book-know-it-alls, and others are authors. Commentary for every match is provided by John Warner and Kevin Guilfoile and in true Tournament of Books fashion, I can’t remember who they are and I don’t really care. But, I love their banter. This will give you a sense of their style:
John: I’m excited to put the Rooster-red blazer back on and join you in the booth for this year’s commentary. In a continuation of a tradition reaching back to last year, we’ve tried to actually read the books in the Tournament. I think I might’ve done a bit better than you, having completed 14 of 16 and sampled the other two. This is mostly due to me having read four of the contenders prior to the announcement of the brackets, though.
Kevin: I started reading with the intention of running the table, but life intervened, and by “life,” of course I mean Life Unexpected, which airs Tuesday nights on the WB . . . I finished better than half of this year’s contenders, and if I can inject some early optimism into the proceedings, I personally found this year’s field to be very strong. It might not have as many novels coming in with as much hype as we had in past years, but there’s a lot of parity here. I have in my mind the book that I think is the one to beat, the one with a target on its spine, but I expect a lot of unpredictability along the way. I mean, other than me saying something really stupid, which is a given.
Brackets for the Sweet Sixteen
The Tournament of Books brackets are out and I’ve filled mine in. I’ve only read four of the 16 books (all can be purchased from Powells for 30% off), although I’m hoping to knock out some of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned before the judge evaluates it on the 16th. Regardless, I filled my brackets in. Here’s an overview of Round 1:
Let the Great World Spin beats Miles From Nowhere because it won the National Book Award. If it gets out of Round 1, I will actually read it (been meaning to, you know how that goes).
The Help beats Lowboy because I read it, so I chose it. If it loses early, I think it will come back as a reader’s choice in the third round (readers had the opportunity to vote for two books that could come back later in the tournament if they were knocked out early.)
The Lacuna beats Fever Chart – I loved The Lacuna, it has a lot to say about history and art, plus I haven’t even heard of Fever Chart so how could I vote for it.
That Old Cape Magic beats Burnt Shadows – ditto, loved Old Cape, never heard of Burnt Shadows.
Wolf Hall beats An Epic Search for Truth, well, it won the Booker which gives it gravitas, plus it takes an old, familiar, much written about story and gives is a new twist, quite an accomplishment.
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned beats The Anthologist because I own Everything and if it wins I’ll be motivated to pick it up, whereas with The Anthologist I’d actually have to buy it and I’m feeling lazy.
The Book of Night Women beats Gate at the Stairs because Laurie Moore annoys me.
The Year of the Flood beats Big Machine because who is going to vote against Atwood in the early rounds?
Who would you pick?