Tournament of Books catch up and predictions

Yesterday’s match up was The Good Lord Bird vs. The Tuner of Silences, neither of which I’ve read. The former, which is on my library holds list, won, so to avoid being spoiled, I didn’t read the judgement.

Today was the first competition for which I’d read both books. I gave The Signature of All Things 4 mosses and The Dinner 3 wine glasses, so my winner is obvious. Happily, the official judge agreed with me, so you can just read his judgement, instead of my explanation of why he’s wrong.

I’m posting this using the wifi in Singapore airport, on our way to start a Mediterranean cruise, so I probably won’t get a chance to read the tournament write ups until the semi-finals. Here are my picks for the rounds I’ll miss:

The Lowland v. Eleanor & Park: Eleanor & Park

The Son v. At Night We Walk in Circles: The Son (I’m haven’t read The Son, but I’m in the middle of At Night We Walk in Circles as an audiobook, and it’s not that interesting)

The Goldfinch v. Long Division: The Goldfinch

Life After Life v. The People in the Trees: Life After Life

Hill William v. A Tale for the Time Being: A Tale for the Time Being

The Good Lord Bird v. The Signature of All Things: The Signature of All Things

(possibly) Eleanor & Park v. The Son: Eleanor & Park

(possibly) The Goldfinch v. Life After Life: Life After Life (The first tough one! I would pick Life After Life, because The Goldfinch’s ending was flawed enough to rule it out.)


Tournament of Books Round 1: A Tale for the Time Being vs How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Today I have less to say because the book I read and enjoyed (but which didn’t quite make it to my favourites of the year list), A Tale for the Time Being, won over the book I haven’t read. After reading the judgement, I’m probably more inclined to read How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, but probably only enough to borrow it from the library, if it becomes available.

I was trying to read as many of the tournament entries as possible, but there are still only two first round match ups for which I’ve read both books (and I’ve even written 42-word book reviews of all four!).

Tournament of Books Round 1: The Luminaries vs Hill William

The Tournament of Books has begun! I actually missed the play-in round, in which Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (one of my favourite books of last year) beat Woke Up Lonely. I haven’t read Woke Up Lonely, and the judging commentary didn’t make me regret that.

There was some controversy in the comments, where it was revealed that the author of Hill William had tried to withdraw from the competition by means of a cryptic facebook post. Luckily for him, the ToB organisers don’t care what the authors think, so it stayed in the tournament.

In the first round, the 200-page, indie-published Hill William, took on the 834-page, Booker-Prize-winning The Luminaries.

Surprisingly, Rachel Fershleiser chose Hill William over The Luminaries, although she didn’t sound that enthusiastic about either book. Fershleiser saw The Luminaries as just another Dead White Guy novel, and it is certainly an homage to that kind of book. She didn’t appreciate the understated writing of the characters, claims erroneously that it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test (two female characters isn’t a lot, but they certainly discuss more than just a man), and can only muster half-hearted respect for the structure. Somehow Hill William gets points for being “real” because it describes violence and abuse in ugly language.

Sometimes when reading ToB judgements, I get the impression that the judge enjoys the power of unilaterally knocking out a favourite book. In a case where you don’t really like either book, why not give the win to the more ambitious and skillfully crafted book, otherwise? In his commentary, Kevin Guilfoile contrasts the judging with the Sochi men’s figure skating, where the gold medal went to someone who fell 3 times while attempting a difficult routine. But this is like penalising the skater who gave a technically impressive and ambitious performance for not being graceful enough and giving the gold to the amateur skater who stuck it to the establishment by performing to punk rock or something.

Unsurprisingly, Jeremy was also outraged by the decision:

My winner: The Luminaries