The Morning News Tournament of Books, sponsored by Powell’s Books, is an annual battle royale amongst the top novels in “literary fiction” published throughout the year. Read more about this year’s tournament »
The Roadby CORMAC McCARTHY
Against the Dayby THOMAS PYNCHON
WARNER: For me, by far the best part of the Tournament of Books is the transparency, a function of the structure for sure, but a byproduct of the judges’ willingness to tell it exactly as they saw it as well.
So here we have Andrew Womack being the third out of four judges to admit to being defeated by Against the Day with the flu apparently playing a contributing factor in this case. Props for the effort, though. I had my own recent bout with this plague and couldn’t manage to read the dosage guidelines on the Tylenol PMresulting in a three-day comalet alone a thousand-page novel.
Let this honesty spread to the awards where authors receive cash prizes and crystal figurines instead of live fowl. Imagine the National Book Award or Pulitzer juries actually releasing the transcripts of their deliberations so we can find out what really happened. Don’t you think it’s entirely possible that when faced with 20 books to consider for a prize that three-quarters of the judging panel just says no to Pynchon’s latest whale when it comes time to give it a look? Don’t get me wrong. I like Pynchon. I think he’s an absolute giant in American literature. I’ve read just about all his books, but in each case it was a mission, a commitment, as in, this month I’m not going to do the dishes or speak to my family or bathe because I’m reading Gravity’s Rainbow. This is what makes Pynchon great, but perhaps also what makes him a bad bet for literary awards.
If we could get him to come out of seclusion, perhaps we could ask him how he feels about being denied the Pulitzer and the Rooster.
GUILFOILE: Yeah, wouldn’t it be great if the Pulitzer committee would come out and say, We almost gave the award to Pynchon, but one of our judges had the flu and just couldn’t deal with him this week. Because you know that happens all the time.
But this was the battle of heavyweights that Tournament observers were waiting for. Pynchon was the battler who outlasted every judge and just wouldn’t die, and McCarthy was the man of destiny. A thrilling start to the Zombie Round.
Speaking of destiny, The Road’s move into the finals puts Brockman way out in front of the Book Bloggers’ Office Pool. The only thing that could keep his champagne corked at this point would be the loss tomorrow of the undefeated One Good Turn to Absurdistan, a top-seeded, first-round flop brought back to life by TMN readers.
Then things would get interesting. Stay in your seats everybody.