The Tournament of Books launches


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Print your brackets! The Morning News’ Tournament of Books 2010 has launched. Now in its sixth year, the Tournament of Books is a month-long book-focused basketball-style matchup. But where basketball teams have the relatively straightforward task of scoring baskets to win their games, in the Tournament of Books matchups, one novel faces another to be advanced at the discretion of a single judge.

This highly subjective method leads to some interesting results. When Sasha Frere-Jones had to judge Kate Atkinson’s ‘One Good Turn’ against Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Against the Day,’ he wrote, ‘I chose Atkinson out of the gate because I am never going to read a novel that is more than 1,000 pages long. A thousand? Sure -- I’ve got lifetimes to throw away. But 1,001 is a dealbreaker.’ (He broke down and read some of the Pynchon, but Atkinson’s novel won the round.)


Today, in the first matchup of the year, Nami Mun’s ‘Miles From Nowhere’ faced off against heavyweight and National Book Award-winner ‘Let the Great World Spin’ by Colum McCann. There was no upset.

Which book wins is important for the tournament -- there are brackets to be filled out -- but it’s the discussion of the books that’s really interesting. How often do we talk about two novels, which may have no clear connection, in relation to each other?

The tourney has some additional bells and whistles: This year, the ringside observers providing color commentary are Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. A zombie round will resuscitate one of the previously eliminated books near the tournament’s end.

This is the first year I’m serving as a judge. I will not to judge any book by its page length, I promise.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Rooster image adapted from the Morning News Tournament of Books