Monday March 7th, 2011

The Madness Arrives

The Tournament of Books officially begins tomorrow, when Sarah Manguso chooses between Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Teddy Wayne’s Kapitoil. Today, John Warner and Kevin Guilfoile, whose running commentary throughout the tournament is a big part of the fun, offer a pre-game primer. So while you’re tailgating — perhaps cooking up some hot dogs on the sidewalk outside a bankrupt Borders store? — head over to see read their initial thoughts. Here’s Warner:

Taken collectively, these books feel like a snapshot of a corner turned, and, as you note, many of them are infused with what it’s been like to live through the last decade. So Much for That is even more timely, since it’s the Great American Healthcare Novel, and takes up issues of class divide and wealth. Room is ripped from the headlines. Bad Marie and Savages could be. Nox causes us to examine what we even mean by saying something is a “book” or a “novel.” Super Sad True Love Story and Freedom could comfortably switch titles. Even Kapitoil, though it’s set in 1999, takes on current hot topics of Wall Street and financial arbitrage.

Are we missing something by not having a historical powerhouse like Toni Morrison’s A Mercy (2009 champion) or Philip Roth’s Plot Against America (2005 runner-up)? Probably, but this list feels pretty right for right now.