The 2010 Tournament of Books

Filled in your brackets? I’ve got Wake Forest getting spanked by Margaret Atwood in the second round.

Book nerds who couldn’t care less about March Madness have something else to watch: The Morning News Tournament of Books, which is in its sixth year.

Past winners have included

2009: A Mercy by Toni Morrison

2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

2006: The Accidental by Ali Smith

2005: The Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

We’re still in the opening round for 2010, and here’s the rundown on this year’s competitors to watch, and click on the link above to have a look at the brackets and see what I’m getting at.

That Old Cape Magic

Richard Russo’s playing defensively this year, but he gets overrun by the younger, more explosive books out there. This is apparently a more physical team than in the past, and Russo has trouble controlling it. Nic Brown has made calls in Burnt Shadows’ favor, sealing That Old Cape Magic’s early exit this year.

The Help

This powerhouse from the South has enough fans to fill ten coliseums with menopausal bookclubbers sloshed on cheap margaritas and singing “Forward Rebels”. Got a scare from Lowboy in the opener (look for that one to make a zombie round comeback). Still, Stockett’s traditional yet slightly manipulative offense makes it a force to reckon with, fan support or no.

The Anthologist

Nicholson Baker never seems to field the same team. This unpredictability from a wily veteran will give The Anthologist edge over Everything Ravaged and Everything Burned in its opener.

Book of the Night Women

Upset city against The Gate at the Stairs. Tassie will put up big numbers (the only thing carrying Lorrie Moore’s heavyweight), but it won’t be enough against the magic Marlon James is working this year.

Let the Great World Spin

A top seeder coming off a National Book Award title. Finesse-driven and builds enough momentum in the later quarters to overwhelm most of the other entrants. But McCann has too much deadweight on his bench and lacks a cohesive starting lineup, so The Help will bounce it in the second round.

Big Machine

This Cinderella entry has a rock ’em sock ’em offense borrowing pages from W.S. Burrough’s and Haruki Murakami’s playbooks. Exciting to watch, but won’t pull the upset on Atwood’s Year of the Flood, not with Kate Ortega making the call.

Wolf Hall

My pick to win The Big Dance. High seeds have done well in this tournament, and Mantel’s Man Booker winner’s still got momentum. Cromwell’s early injury won’t slow down this cerebral powerhouse, which should face tough competition but still prevail on its depth advantage. It’s good to be the king.

You might ask what the point is of the Tournament of Books–which boasts a playoff system more arbitrary than the BCS. But as Kevin Guifoile explains, “It’s a little like complaining the solution to today’s Sudoku doesn’t require calculus.” They want to get people talking about some of last year’s best novels in a fun new way.

Know what I think? It’s awesome, baby!

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One thought on “The 2010 Tournament of Books

  1. I’m not a sports guy. My friend, the Playwright Shawn Marie, taught me this thing her father used to say on Monday mornings to fit in with the sports jocks in the office: “If they play like they did last night, it’s going to be a hell of a season.”

    “Then, you walk off with your coffee,” she said. “Think of it as wearing sports-drag in the office.”

    “But I don’t wear any kind of drag in real life.”

    “That’s why you’re only going to think it,” she said.

    Anyway. This may be the closest to sports excitement I get. Well, this and Puppybowl. And, like you, my money’s on Wolf Hall. I don’t read a lot of stuff written in my life time*, but this was my favorite book of 2009.

    [* Here’s a partial list of some modern authors I pursue: Kazuo Ishiguro, especially The Unconsoled; Milan Kundera, especially Immortality; Margaret Atwood, though not as rabidly as once upon a time; Russell Banks, especially The Sweet Hereafter; Pete Dexter, especially Paris Trout; Mary Roach, who isn’t fiction, granted, but still I love her; Flannery O’Connor, who probably shouldn’t count.]

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