Tournament of Books, for better or worseThe Tournament of Books is back again, with three acclaimed Iraq War novels engaged in a play-in to reach the regular round of sixteen. In an inspired choice, the books are judged by Nathan Bradley, "an active-duty Army officer and writer", who obviously has unique insight into the inner workings of the military while also knowing his way around the printed page and what makes good writing.
Thing is, I wish the ToB was as inspired in its choice of contestants. For the most part, it's the same bunch of big-house books and writers that everybody in the literary fiction world has already been talking about/hyping incessantly over the past year, with the only real surprise being Chris Ware's odd graphic collection Building Stories. I haven't read any of the contestants, and have little interest in any of them other than Alice Munro's latest story collection. (My wife, however, read and loved Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which I expect to reach the finals.) And I'm also saddened to see ToB all but jump the shark, adopting corporate behemoth Barnes & Noble as sponsor instead of beloved indie Powell's. (A full shark-jump, of course, would involve Amazon.)
Still, I know I'll avidly follow along. It's rare these days to have such an enthusiastic, communal discussion of literature, especially one that unfolds in real time, so even if the books do little for me at least I'll enjoy the proceedings.