Friday, September 18

sixteen of sixteen squared

in a mere four weeks, The Morning News will host an event the likes of which have never ever happened before in the history of books.

it will be a mega tournament of books. a Super-Rooster championship of previous tournament champions.

and while I could of course enjoy this event without having read all the contestants, as I usually do with the regular March tournaments, I decided I should try this time, since it's such a momentous occasion, to read all of them. or at least dip into the opening chapters of all of them.

of the 16, I happened to have already read 6 (mostly thanks to friend Patti sending along her copies once she'd read them) and given up on another. so that leaves 9 more. not that many. reading 9 books in 4 weeks or so is not impossible. I have the utmost faith in my reading speed.

once resolved upon this course of action, I used this handy list and put 8 of the books on hold at the downtown Prescott Public Library.

the ninth (Normal People) I remembered taste-testing as an audiobook on Libby, so I found it there again, downloaded it properly, and let my ears devour it while crafting and tidying a few weekends ago. it was quite an engaging little jaunt of a novel.

several of my requested books were available right away, and since my last library trip I've already finished Fever Dream. I'm in the middle of 4 others now. they are all already competing for points.

here, for the record, is the full list, delineated into past and present reading, with notes on either what I remember of the book or what I'm thinking about it now.

previously read (or attempted):

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
this is inarguably an impressive accomplishment of a book. I really liked it when I originally read friend Melanie's library copy back in 2013. eventually I watched the film, too, which is a less impressive piece of work, but still pretty neat. 

The Road. Cormac McCarthy.
I didn't get far with this, finding it literally unbelievable in its utter hopelessness. I don't feel like giving it a second chance so I'm not going to. life is too short. best wishes to Mr. McCarthy.

The Brief Wondrous Live of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz.
this book had the honor of being my very first free Audible download way back when. I may have chosen it because of its status in the 2008 tournament-- I don't remember. I do remember not loving the book much. it sat on pause in my Amazon account for years. once I finally finished it, I posted this rather curt review on goodreads:

"nothing at all about this Oscar fellow or his life or this story (allegedly about his life) struck me as wondrous or all that brief. what an odd and tedious book."

The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt
before I'd even read this one, I randomly predicted it to win the 2012 tournament, and I won a box of Field Notes prizes for guessing the judges' votes correctly. some time later I did read and love its enjoyable balance of silliness and poignance. there's a film of it now too, on Hulu. the film felt pretty different-- more solemn-- than I remember the book. but it was well done.

The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson
I still think about this book on occasion, though the exact details are all swirled and blurry in my memory. it was impactful for me in a way I can't totally articulate now. past me did record a moment from it here in this post, for what that might be worth.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
this is a truly lovely novel and it deserved to win. I loved reading every last bit of it. possibly I shouldn't have given my second-hand copy away (who did I give it away to, anyway?). I also blogged about Station Eleven and its runner-up here

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
on goodreads, I reviewed this one with the sentiment that it "ended too soon (in a good way?)," and I remember it as a fun little story. I read it back to back with So Lucky (another contestant in the 2019 tournament), and they made for a potent contrast and interesting mix of tone.


very recently read, in progress, or soon-to-be:

Normal People, Salley Rooney
I liked this story-- the narrator was wonderful-- but I don't know exactly what is so sensational about it. perhaps watching the Hulu series based on it will unlock the grand layers of risque taboo etc. for me. who knows.  

Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin
so short. so ominous. there's a ghostly vibe to this book-- partly friendly, partly unreachable, holding your hand as you read along. I could see myself rereading it someday to see what else is really there.

The Accidental, by Ali Smith
I'm finding this one the most enjoyable of the previously unread contestants so far. now that I'm a little more than halfway through, the tension and ominousness are mounting. it feels like something darkly destructive is about to happen. 

The Sellout, Paul Beatty
I picked this one up directly after Fever Dream, and the differences gave me whiplash. Fever Dream is such a gently simmering story, and The Sellout so relatively manic, I almost doubted my ability to keep up with Beatty in any way whatsoever. I'm a decent way through this one, but set it down to finish The Accidental first.

The Good Lord Bird, James McBride
so far I've just tasted this one, too. the historical setting makes it an oddball in my current reading pile. I might not get back to it til I've finished all the others here. we'll see. 

A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
apparently I checked this out or borrowed it from somebody but never read it back in 2011. I tasted a few pages a few days ago, but haven't gotten properly into it yet. in my head I sometimes confuse this one with Where'd You Go Bernadette, for some reason. I need to read them both so I stop doing that. hopefully.

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison
a library copy has been acquired, but not opened yet. because the author is so revered, I am very much looking forward to this one.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
again, copy acquired, but not opened yet. I feel like I should have read this years ago.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
this one is going to be the hardest to get from the library on time, it looks like. Mantel's historical fiction is popular stuff. maybe I should just buy a copy? I'll give it a few weeks and see how far I get with this reading-intensive project anyway.

next tasks? read like mad, fill out a bracket, place some informal bets... and then prepare to keep up with the judges next month. who's with me?

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