I love anything that borders on the ridiculous. Powell’s Books in Portland (well known as one of the best book stores in the country) is sponsoring some stimulating new bookish tomfoolery. Introducing the fifth annual Tournament of Books, beginning this year on March 9th. This is from the website:
We used to drink more than we do now. There’s no reason for it really except that we’re older and we go to bed earlier. We have reduced our number of waking nighttime hours, and as a result we are drinking less these days.
We mention this because the Tournament of Books is one of those concepts that only could have been conceived and subsequently executed by people who used to drink a lot but now drink considerably less. In the absence of too much alcohol, it never would have occurred to us that we should take 16 of the most celebrated and highly touted novels of the year, seed them in a March Madness-type bracket, conscript them into a “Battle Royale of Literary Excellence,” and, in honor of David Sedaris’s brother, present the author of the winning book a live rooster. And if we hadn’t eventually reduced our pint consumption, we never would have found the energy, desire, and increased number of waking daytime hours to actually do it. This will be our fifth year at this and if you ask the previous champions—David Mitchell, Ali Smith, Cormac McCarthy, and Junot Díaz—we believe they would tell you the Rooster is a badge they wear proudly on their highly decorated chests, somewhere between the ones for orienteering and basketry.
No author asks to have his work pitted against the work of another, but that is what all awards do, in effect. The Nobel Prize is an Olympiad of words. The Man Booker is the Premier League Championship of Letters. Everyone knows that, behind the scenes, the National Book Award is both arbitrary and brutal, sort of like Keeping Up With the Kardashians meets Ultimate Fighting. The Tournament of Books is every bit as arbitrary, but we have simply lifted the curtain so the reader can actually see the caged octagon in which the books meet, barefoot and snarling.
The list of books in this year’s tournament are here.
Additional information and printable bracket sheets are here.