The Rooster Returns
March 9, 2018 6:59 AM   Subscribe

in 2011 Jonathan Franzen almost won and 2005 was a toss-up between Cloud Atlas and a Philip Roth novel

I'm getting flashbacks to my undergrad creative writing program again ugh
posted by runt at 7:36 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

It began on the 7th! Don't miss the play in round and Megan O'Connell's superb judgment!
posted by leesh at 7:36 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

oh whoops today is not the 8th good job towels
posted by everybody had matching towels at 7:38 AM on March 9, 2018


I just wanted to make sure everyone saw Lincoln in the Bardo go down in the first round. ;)
posted by leesh at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was about to predict a George Saunders | Jesmyn Ward throw-down for victory (with a decent chance for Jennifer Egan in the left-hand bracket, who makes everything seem effortless).

BUT! Lincoln has already been beaten in the opening round. Now I'm all a-flutter and I won't dare to make another prediction and will go pick up Fever Dream instead.
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 7:40 AM on March 9, 2018

It could come back in the Zombie Round, but I hope it doesn't! I want to see other books have a chance to shine.
posted by leesh at 7:44 AM on March 9, 2018

(Full disclosure: I am rooting for The Animators.)
posted by leesh at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love the Tournament of Books! It was part of what inspired me to do a watered-down version for each decade of the 1600s, and thinking in relative terms about a set of texts from the same time period really was a lot of fun. The only thing I've read from this year is Lincoln in the Bardo. I enjoyed it, but it's exciting to see an early upset.
posted by cpound at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

There are at least two books I loved (The Idiot, Pachinko) and two books I hated (White Tears, Idaho) already in the running, so I'm excited to see how it plays out. I've casually followed the ToB for a while, and I always like reading the longlist to fill up my library holds with interesting stuff I missed.
posted by torridly at 8:25 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt: I know Pat from back in the day and he's not only a great writer but a quality dude.
posted by josher71 at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh good, this is basically a tournament of every book I either checked out from the library in the past 14 months and then returned only partially read, or purchased over the past 18 months but have not read yet because more compelling or less emotionally draining things waved themselves in front of my face. Cool. Now I get to feel weirdly guilty for not having tackled Pachinko or Lincoln In The Bardo or Sing, Unburied, Sing yet while I tear through that new book about The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise instead.
posted by palomar at 8:38 AM on March 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Palomar I'm with you. I have loved the ToB, was even the Reader Judge one year, but Literary Fiction as a genre hasn't been very fun to read in the past several years, so I've by and large given a pass to trying to read all the entries and look for gems from the tournament itself.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:57 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

For a related, but significantly nerdier, version check out Unbound Worlds' Cage Match, which pits various characters from SFF books against each other.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:30 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've never picked up the print version of Lincoln in the Bardo, but the audio book was an enormous pleasure. I didn't think it was like a play or a radio drama, but it was a unique pleasure, even among audio books. I think the experience of reading that book and listening to it are very different, and I wonder if it would have met the same fate if the audio book had been entered.

Every year, I let the ToB set a huge part of my reading list for the year. I still think my favorite judgment of all time is Jessica Francis Kane judging The Road in the final match.
posted by gladly at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

For me, The Idiot is to this tournament what Get Out was to the Oscars -- that is, it's the only one I've read, but I liked it so so much I find it hard to imagine any of other contenders are as good.
posted by escabeche at 4:19 PM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is my first year following ToB and making a bracket. I had Lincoln in the Bardo and White Tears going pretty far. Now, I have to put my faith in Sing Unburied Sing and Exit West.

My two favorite books of the year made the long list but not the final tournament. All Grown Up and All Our Wrong Todays. The former is Jami Attenberg's latest and she's the kind of writer you want to sit next to in the lunchroom and be BFFs with. The latter was Kurt Vonnegut Lite, but holy shit, I have missed Kurt Vonnegut so that was totally okay with me.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:53 PM on March 9, 2018

I loved Lincoln in the Bardo and White Tears (I couldn't stand The Idiot) and I was prepared to be angered by the judgements, but boy, Fever Dreams sure does sound intriguing.
posted by thivaia at 7:38 PM on March 10, 2018

Damn, I liked Dear Cyborgs, but I am still gobsmacked it beat Manhattan Beach. I'm 0-for-3 plus I blew the play in round. At this point, all of my hopes hinge on the right side of the bracket.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:30 AM on March 13, 2018

Holy shit, now I am 0-for-4. I should have made an opposite bracket.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:21 AM on March 13, 2018

I got one! I got one! Sing Unburied Sing is my projected winner, so I needed that one.

I seem to be alone down here, so perhaps my hopes for a March Madness style chat with other ToB followers was a bit overly hopeful. Eh, well.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:48 AM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

For what its worth, I am enjoying it!

I haven't read enough of them this year to make one...but Sing Unburied Sing is the projected winner of my less-than-totally-informed bracket.

Also, as ever, the match commentary is not to be missed.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:42 AM on March 14, 2018

Baseless speculation: I would place actual money on both Lincoln in the Bardo and Manhattan Beach reentering as the zombies.

Unless SUS goes too!
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:47 AM on March 14, 2018

The review from today had Book of Joan dead to rights in my opinion, with this bit:
Although the prose in The Book of Joan is phenomenal, I wish there was more world-building. I was constantly taken out of the story because I wanted to try to make sense of the world. I could barely picture Christine and her grafts in my mind—I wanted more guidance and time to process.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:59 AM on March 14, 2018

After a week of upsets (and I guess The End of Eddy wasn't an upset, but it was a match-up of meh), I was dreading this pairing because I thought The Book of Joan wasn't a good book at all. Engaging and interesting at times, and definitely one hell of a project, but I found it regressive about gender and bewilderingly transphobic, when my expectations for the book were that it'd be the opposite of that. And Sing, Unburied, Sing was a tough read but amazingly written, and I hope it's the eventual winner of the tournament. And after how this past week was going, I was sure that not only was Joan going to win, it'd somehow win an automatic bid to the final round or something bizarrely unexpected like that. :)

But I'm happy with this outcome, and I've otherwise enjoyed all the upsets. It's been fun to read and complain about and cheer about. The amount of upsets, I think, are a reflection of the seeding seeming even more capricious than usual (Fever Dream as a fourth seed?? Putting that, Lincoln in the Bardo, White Tears, and the play-in winner in the same bracket??? And then the lacklusterness of the bottom left bracket???), but also, it's a solid set of books this year! Lots of difficult choices. I feel like emotional support animal gifs might need to be brought in for the Exit West versus The Animators round!
posted by mixedmetaphors at 12:36 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I haven't read The Animators yet, but I bought a copy already.

I have Pachinko out from the library and I'll probably do that right after Idaho (which I'm on now and I think is good). But if Pachinko gets booted, I may skip straight to The Animators. A lot of my energy has ended up on the right hand side of the bracket. I loved Exit West a lot. Goodbye Vitamin was very enjoyable, but so modest in its scope and style, it's hard to make a loud case for it. It's staying on my mind some, though. So maybe I'm underrating it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:56 PM on March 14, 2018

Idaho & Goodbye, Vitamin is the only non-play-in match-up where I haven't read either of the books. I've been working slowly on The Idiot after its two-round winning streak, but I'm hoping to have the time to read at least one of those two by Monday (and I own both in ebook, thanks to them going on sale previously).

Pachinko is my personal favorite, but I'm not fussed if it goes out tomorrow. It's such a traditional historical family saga that even if it delivered my exact preferable reading experience, I totally get how it's not for everyone.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 2:14 PM on March 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pachinko! Cool. If Exit West pulls out tomorrow, my bracket is looking semi-respectable again.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2018

Now we're talking. I have Goodbye, Vitamin in the next round, but now that I'm actually reading Idaho, that feels dead wrong. Idaho is freaking jaw-dropping. Since I have one ahead in my bracket and one ahead in my mind, I guess I will both lose and win, no matter which way the next round goes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 AM on March 16, 2018

The decisions of the past two days have been positively restful in comparison to the opening few matches. And I love Judge Hoffman's opening line: "It’s hard, going into the Tournament, to not judge a book by its coverage." Indeed!

I'm guessing the lead zombie contenders will be Lincoln in the Bardo and White Tears (where my vote went, but I didn't think it'd be knocked out first thing!).
posted by mixedmetaphors at 8:43 AM on March 17, 2018

I am positively gobsmacked that Idaho lost.

While I wouldn't want to talk down Goodbye, Vitamin, which I also enjoyed, Idaho just felt like... an achievement. Not just a good read, but the kind of work that will stay with me for years and years.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:06 PM on March 19, 2018

Today's judgement convinced me to go out and buy Fever Dream.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:47 AM on March 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dear Cyborgs is still in there! I liked that book, but didn't think it would make it this far. Parts of it have really stuck with me, and I do intend to read it again at some point to see how it adds up now that I understand its underlying structure better. But it still felt like conceptual sleight of hand as much or more than an involving story. Much of the prose was outstanding though and it's still rolling around in my head.

Maybe this is another great aspect of ToB: being encouraged to give more thought to books that didn't entirely win you over the first read. Certainly I'm thinking some more about this one and Goodbye Vitamin now.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:47 AM on March 21, 2018

Sing Unburied Sing goes down and my bracket along with it. Still several books I care about in play, but I did a pitiful job in terms of predictions.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:43 AM on March 22, 2018

My prediction of a SUS/LitB final can still happen, just not via the path I assumed it would.

Today's round was between my two favorites, and while I still think SUS is the best book in the tournament, Pachinko was my personal favorite, so I'm pleased it's still going.

Also pleased that the left-side semi-final is between two singularly strange and strangely singular books. I can't wait to read that judgment.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 9:59 AM on March 22, 2018

I know we still have two zombie books to come back, but at this point, I'm starting to think it's Exit West's tourney to lose. I still need to reach Pachinko, though, and its buzz is building too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:19 AM on March 23, 2018

Some of these book are on fanfare btw, almost entirely thanks to DirtyOldTown!

- Sing Unburied Sing
- Idaho
- Exit West
- White Tears
- Dear Cyborgs
- Fever Dream
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:36 PM on March 26, 2018

I added Book of Joan and Goodbye, Vitamin while I was at it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:24 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Continuing my quest to read (or try to read) all of this year's short list, I've now added Lincoln in the Bardo and Savage Theories to FF. LitB was terrific and I was glad to see it win this morning. I will look forward to seeing it face off with Fever Dream tomorrow.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:03 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anxiously refreshing until today's final goes live....
posted by everybody had matching towels at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's finally my turn for a copy of Fever Dream at the library. Now I'm especially anxious to read it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:18 AM on March 30, 2018

Next year, I'd love it if we did a ToB Book Club on FF from early on.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:21 AM on March 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

That's a great idea!
posted by everybody had matching towels at 8:27 AM on March 30, 2018

I'm probably going to try and read my way through the Man Booker finalists next.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2018

I second that great idea: a TOB club on FF. I'd happily participate.
posted by gladly at 10:05 AM on March 30, 2018

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