Posts Tagged ‘tournament of books’

20th February
2009
written by Steph
If you're into this kind of thing and are planning to play along with this year's Tournament of Books, the official bracket has now been posted over at The Morning News, along with info on the esteemed judges who will be overseeing all of the matches.  Being such a non-sports person, I can only assume that the matches will proceed from the top of the bracket to the bottom (yes, I understand the bracket ultimately moves from left to right, but I know that they don't post the first round results simultaneously).  Based on last year's pacing, results from each bout were posted about once every three days, so I'm assuming they'll follow a similar schedule this year. Events kick off on March 6, presumably with the match-up between Roberto Bolaño's 2666 & Fae Myenne Ng's Steer Toward Rock (my review of which, you can view here).  Having not read the Bolaño (and with no possibility of reading it before March 6 in sight), and understanding that in this tournament, personal taste of the judge (and his/her idiosyncrasies) plays a huge role, my predicition is that Bolaño easily sweeps his first round.  Based on what I've heard, I think this one is a strong contender for the overall win, in part because of how The Savage Detectives lost last year, although the fact that it was unfinished at the time of the author's death may work against it.
10th February
2009
written by Tony
Fist pump!

Fist pump!

I have been putting this review off. Not because I didn’t like the book and not because I am lazy (though I am). Mostly because I just can’t figure out how I feel about this damn book. I also can’t decide whether Kunzru is a well-disguised good writer or a patently oblivious semi-talented writer. Having never read any other Kunzru, much of this may be speculation. A little background before I begin the formal review: this is a member of the Tournament of Books reading list. A list that has been tirelessly wearing Steph down with clunkers and boat anchors. Early on Steph asked me if I wanted to weigh in on any of the ToB picks, and I arbitrarily decided to give this one a shot. As time went on (and I plowed through the works of Oscar Wilde) and Steph read more of the ToB selections I became nervous. The other books on the list were really terrible, and the normally respectable ToB benchmark was being called into question (by Steph). Had I made a Mistake (yes, a capital “M” mistake)? (more…)
2nd February
2009
written by Steph
Trust me... you'll be accustomed by the end of it

Trust me... you'll be accustomed by the end of it

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of short story collections or anthologies.  I’m not sure what it is about them, but I’ve never found them very enjoyable to read, perhaps because by the time I’m involved in a given story it ends and then I have to get invested in another one.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I think I generally find short stories too, well, short to be fulfilling, and so when it comes to my reading, I tend to focus on novels instead.  For this reason, if it were not for the Tournament of books, I probably would never have picked up Unaccustomed Earth, no matter how much acclaim it has received. And Unaccustomed Earth has gained a lot of acclaim.  It first came to my notice back in July when it made headlines for snagging the Frank O’Connor award.  Now winning an award will generally earn you a headline in the book world, but what really made this story interesting was the fact that Lahiri’s collection was dubbed the unanimous winner so early on that the judges jumped from long-list to winner.  They did not pass Go, they did not collect $200, and they did not declare a short-list in the process either.  In their opinion, Unaccustomed Earth was so superior relative to the competition that there was no point pretending anyone else was in the running, and subjecting the other authors to unnecessary stress.  Add this to the fact that Lahiri has pretty much been an untouchable literary superstar ever since the publication of her first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, and you can see why despite my normal aversion to short stories, I had pretty high expectations for this ToB entrant. (more…)
29th January
2009
written by Steph

Finally we’re getting somewhere.  This was my third book read for the 2009 Tournament of Books, and it was by far the one I have enjoyed most to date.  If each subsequent book continues on this upward trend, I can totally deal with the few false starts I dealt with at the beginning. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (henceforth known as TDHoFLB), spans a period of about 6 months in the life of one Frankie Landau-Banks.  The story starts off just before she’s about to begin her sophomore year at the prestigious boarding school, Alabaster Academy.  Over the summer, she has emerged from her ugly duckling cocoon (way to mix metaphors!), and is now quite the attractive young lady (read: she has breasts!).  Due to this metamorphosis, she now catches the eye of fetching upperclassmen, namely a guy named Matthew, whom she’s been crushing on for quite some time.  And now he reciprocates those jelly-knee feelings!!!  So they start to date.  And then Frankie finds out he’s in a super secret society that her father was also a member of, only it’s so top secret that Matthew won’t even tell her about it (or acknowledge its existence).  She can also forget about joining it, because it’s a top secret society that is for BOYS ONLY.  This is unacceptable to Frankie, so she spends the rest of the novel trying to figure out a way to be a part of this illustrious Secret Order of the Basset Hounds. (more…)
26th January
2009
written by Steph

Sigh.  My first book read for this year’s Tournament of Books, was fairly atrocious, so despite the rocky start, I was at least optimistic that the next book would have to be better.  It’s the law of averages!  So I picked up Fae Myenne Ng’s Steer Toward Rock, and dove in hoping I was going to land in a somewhat deeper pool. Steer Toward Rock is largely about a Chinese man name Jack Moon Szeto who, during his youth, is sold into another family so that they can have a son.  When he is older, he is sent to San Francisco so that he can work off his debt to his non-blood father, and also act as a decoy husband for the second wife said father wants to also bring into America (hoping to get a true blood son out of her).  This is around the time of the Chinese Confession Program, when the INS were trying to weed out individuals who had lied to bring other Chinese immigrants into the country, and when Chinese immigrants were treated extremely poorly.  The novel examines the trials and tribulation of Jack, primarily focusing on his relationships with three pivotal women in his life: Joice, his first love; Ilin, his fake wife; and Veda, his daughter by Joice.  It examines what an individual is willing to undergo for love, as well as the role of family (both in terms of one that is formed versus one that we are tied to through blood), and of course the immigration experience and the struggles to habituate as well as the struggle for later generations to understand their heritage.  Through this exploration, Steer Toward Rock also addresses the issue of self-identity. (more…)
24th January
2009
written by Steph
Voting for the Zombie Round entrants for the annual Tournament of Books is open. If you're better informed about this year's books that are up for the rooster prize (or even if you're not but just like to vote for things), you can click on this link and cast your vote for whichever book you thought was best. Voting closes on Jan 26th (I think), so if you do plan to cast your vote, time is running out!  I'm not sure why the folks over at The Morning News have decided to have voting finish so far before the tournament, but them's the breaks. I don't think I'll vote because I haven't read anything off of the list so far that I would like to see win.  However, I'll point out that voting entails you filling out a brief questionnaire, during which you can offer ideas about what you'd like to see incorporated into future ToBs.  So perhaps for that reason, it would be worthwhile to randomly select a book and hope that I wind up liking it.  All I ask is this: Please don't vote for A Partisan's Daughter. That is all.
23rd January
2009
written by Steph
41xwagpe7l

As I revealed in my last bookish post, The Morning News's Tournament of Books books (heh) turned out to be quite difficult to borrow from my campus library.  Consequently, I turned to the local branch of the Nashville Public Library, and decided to raid their collection for whichever ToB contenders they had on hand (while placing holds on the other ones).  Thankfully, when we arrived at the library, the four books they claimed to have were easily located, which made the trip immensely more rewarding than my frigid foray into the campus library.  This is of course barring the little snafu in which we arrived at the library at 1 pm, under the impression that it opened at noon, when in fact it doesn’t open until 2 pm on Sundays.  But with that extra hour we just popped over to the Humane Association to play with puppies to while away the time, which is really just as good a use of our time… so it wasn’t really all that catastrophic.  Anyway, all of this backstory is really just leading up to the part where I even dutifully paid my overdue fines while at the library, which amounted to the exorbitant sum of 10¢.  Why do I share this?  Because the dude at the fines counter actually asked if I wanted a receipt for this transaction.  I hope he is required to ask that of everyone, but felt chagrinned for doing so.  Seriously, people.  I paid my fine with what looks like a Toronto bus token (but was worth far less than that), and he asks if I want documented proof of this. Aaaaanyway, back to the real topic at hand: books!  I was going to start the one book I had to borrow in large-text (it was the only copy they had available!), but it smelled really strongly of old-lady perfume and was making me feel nauseous just holding it, so I’m gonna hold off (heh) on that one for a while.  [As an aside, I think I’ve heard that you can put smelly books in plastic bags and place them in your freezer for a few days to destinkify them, but I might have just made this up.  Have any of you successfully dealt with this issue in the past?]  So, I wound up picking up A Partisan’s Daughter instead, perhaps in part because it was the shortest looking book in the stack.  And that’s how we got here. Have you noticed that I’ve kind of been dragging my feet when it comes to talking about the book? (more…)
14th January
2009
written by Steph
This just in: The Morning News has revealed the contenders for the 2009 Tournament of Books.  For those of you not in the know, this is an annual tournament held by TMN in which some of the year's "best" books compete in a March Madness NCAA type fashion.  Two books face off each week, with the winner of that bout proceeding to the next round.  How do these battles go down?  Each week has a designated reader (generally an author or writer) who reads both books (in theory), and then declares a winner based on his or her own personal set of criteria.  Other than a penultimate Zombie round (in which previously voted fan favorites get a chance to rise again and do battle once more), in order to make it to the final round, a given book must beat each of its adversaries in each round in order to win the prize.  And what is the prize? Well, the author of the winning novel is sent a live rooster, so there's that.  But for you the reader, the whole tournament is a prize, because not only are the weekly commentaries both amusing and informative, but you get a fancy new reading list!  Past winners have been The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Accidental by Ali Smith (just barely...), and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. As I said though, it's not just the overall winner of the tournament that necessarily shines in a contest such as this.  Indeed, one of my favourite reads of last year, Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris, was an entry (but not winner) in the tournament.  I came to the tourney late last year, and read about most of the books after their rounds had come and gone.  By the end, I read two of the books on the list, and I still enjoyed the whole thing.  But this year, I want to play along!  And I encourage you to do so too!  Here's the list of books that will duke it out: (more…)