As of this writing we are
three five matches* into one of Hobart's favorite annual events -- the Morning News Tournament of Books. The inspiration of the ToB was genius: While the rest of the country goes crazy over the March Madness basketball tournament, us book nerds can huddle on the internet and watch a tournament of our own.
By the way, I was in Kansas City, Missouri last week, where the Big 12 Conference tournament is taking place. My hotel was the host, it seemed, of all of the womens' teams. They were everywhere -- young women in sweats and Nikes stepping down from huge buses, crossing the lobby in small packs, cramming into elevators. One night, when I got back to my hotel around midnight, I walked into the lobby to find a tall brown cylindrical furry creature with big eyes and tennis shoes dancing silently by itself.
But I digress. The ToB is, as Anthony Doerr describes it in the first-round pairing of Joshua Ferris' "Then We Came to the End" and Anya Ulinich's "Petropolis," "the most ridiculous (and therefore perhaps the most sincere) of book contests." Which, of course, makes it the most fun.
This year's contest is off to a great start. In the first three matches alone, Jeff Parker's "Ovenman," the victim of a hard luck first-round pairing, was steamrolled by Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke," "Then We Came to the End" beat "Petropolis" at the buzzer and, in a shocking upset, rangy upstart Vendela Vida's "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name" dropped the most influential Latin American novel ever written (if one believes the blurbs on book covers), Roberto Bolano's "The Savage Detectives." I don't know what "rangy" means, by the way. It sounds like a basketball term, though.
So get those brackets filled in, if you haven't already. We here at Hobart have no inside information, so the following prediction is no more reliable than any other, and I offer it knowing the only thing more ridiculous than holding an elimination tournament among works of fiction would be trying to predict the outcome, but here goes: I'm betting on a extremely close final match in which "The Brief and Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao" barely edges out "Tree of Smoke."
What are your predictions?
*nb: Two matches took place while I was writing this post! Thrilling!