The tournament is a March Madness style head to head of books from the past year. It’s usually 15 literary novels and one outlier—one year it was a YA novel, another year they had something more commercial. This year they have Anne Carlson’s poetry collection/scrapbook/objet d’art Nox. Whatever you want to call it, it’s beautiful. And it doesn’t have a chance of winning.
The real question this year is whether Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom will go the distance or whether it will be trounced in a backlash. As someone who liked it considerably less than The Corrections but still admires Franzen’s phenomenal skill as a writer, I’m completely okay with it going either way. The books I’m rooting for are my two favorite novels of last year: Room by Emma Donoghue and A Visit from the Goon Squad by the incomparable Jennifer Egan.
Again this year, I conned the DGLM bookclub into reading titles from the tournament, randomly selected from a hat. Miriam is deeply bitter about getting Lord of Misrule. Prediction: she’ll hate it. I ended up choosing James Hynes’ Next. Halfway through, I’m falling very, very hard for it. I can only hope that it sustains itself at the level of grace, insight, and humor it has shown so far.
I’m also pleased that someone is doing a contest for folks to predict the outcome. You can enter here. I’m personally not predicting many spoilers in the first half of the contest. I get much nervier with the right side of the bracket when I predict Super Sad True Love Story gets knocked out super-fast. Of course, that’s because I’ve read (or tried to read) each of Gary Shteyngart’s novels and deeply disliked each one in new and exciting ways.
So join me in following the tournament this year? It’s good fun, I promise. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s ultimately a bunch of nerds talking about books and presenting an award in the process. These are a few of my favorite things…