Sunday, March 18, 2012

ToB 2012: The Art of Fielding vs. Open City

Tournament of Books 2012
Open City
Teju Cole
The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach

Let's do a little recap of the last few days of the Tournament:

Apologies to the handful of you that look forward to my daily write-up of Tournament match-ups.  I choose sleep over a half-hearted discussion of the books.  I assure you that I had stubs for the missing posts and even a few paragraphs, but nothing worthy of reading.

Some considered The Sisters Brothers win over State of Wonder an upset, but I wasn't surprised at all.  Some people in the comments at the ToB thought that judge Wil Wheaton's judgement was too harsh on State of Wonder, but I thought it got the job done.  In my opinion, The Sisters Brothers is the better novel - better story, better plotted, better characters. It was certainly an upset for our contest participants since only 44% had picked The Sisters Brothers to move on to the next round.

And then we had Swamplandia! beat The Cat's Table, which was expected.  I am very much looking forward to reading Swamplandia! since sounds exactly like something I'd love.

Finally, Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot went up against Kate Zambreno's Green Girl with The Marriage Plot coming out on top.  This too was expected since The Marriage Plot was a generally well-reviewed novel from a very famous literary novelist (and his vest).  Green Girls was, based on the reviews I've read, not well-received.  Some argued in the comments at the ToB that the level of hatred that some people had for the novel was what made it so great - that it generated such a strong emotional reaction.  Listen, if I *hate* a book, nothing is going to make me think that it's actually wonderful.  I get the reasoning from a logical standpoint, but I can't imagine it when considered practically.

We'll be collecting your Quarterfinal Picks on Monday, March 19th.  You must have your Quarterfinal picks in by 11:59PM CDT.  Remember to follow Forever Overhead on Twitter and/or Facebook and subscribe to our RSS feed for the latest posts.  

On to Monday's match-up! 

This is the last match-up of the first round of the Tournament of Books and it's maybe the most interesting.

Considering the way members of our ToB contest voted, 83% picked The Art of Fielding to move on to the next round of the Tournament.  This is, coincidentally, the same percentage of people that picked Salvage The Bones over Lightning Rods.  Certainly The Art of Fielding is the safe bet.  It sold well and really put Chad Harbach on the map as a novelist to watch.  On the other hand Open City is something new and exciting.  Harbach's novel is a somewhat traditional tale, told in what has become a traditional way.  Cole's novel is more like a diary or journal and while it's difficult to nail down a solid plot, it's the journey not the destination, right?

These books come from different places.  Fielding is set in a small college town in Michigan and Open City is set in New York City. Harbach's main character is Henry Skrimshander, an exciting young shortstop.  Cole's main character is a Nigerian psychiatrist named Julius.  One book is an idealistic white Midwestern American story, the other is a realistic inner-city travelogue.   

I am hoping that Open City walks away with the win, but I'm pretty confident that The Art of Fielding will win out in the end.  The Art of Fielding is decidedly middle-brow and therefore accessible and possibly more universal.  Yet Open City really goes for something different and maybe less accessible, but maybe more satisfying. is a sponsor of the Tournament of Books and you would be doing them (and me) a big favor if you used this link to buy any of the books in this year's tournament.  All ToB books are 30% off their list price and you'll be supporting a great bookseller!  

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