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Cock of the Walk

March 18, 2008 |  1:32 pm

Tournofbooks_2008

The website The Morning News is in the midst of its annual Tournament of Books, designed much like college basketball's March Madness (complete with sudden-death elimination and complex brackets). In the tournament, novels go head to head, and an author/critic/blogger judge declares a winner in each match. Two commentators -- Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner -- weigh in on the proceedings, just as those guys on ESPN do. It's not exactly scientific, but it is fun.

Take today's contest: "The Shadow Catcher," by Marianne Wiggins, faces off against Brock Clarke's "The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England." Judge Helen DeWitt begins her assessment of the two books with a quote by Frederic Jameson on Theodore Adorno's use of Sigmund Freud ... an intellectual pile-on that might be a little daunting but for the commentators, who call DeWitt "one smart cookie" and themselves "mouth-breathing idiots." A little something in the analysis for everyone.

This matchup marks the end of the first round. Moving up in the competition are "Tree of Smoke" by Denis Johnson, "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name" by Vendela Vida, "Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris, "You Don't Love Me Yet" by Jonathan Lethem, "Shining at the Bottom of the Sea" by Stephen Marche, "Remainder" by Tom McCarthy, "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz, and, yes, SoCal author Wiggins' "The Shadow Catcher."

The last two books on the list, by Diaz and Wiggins, are also nominated for the LA Times Book Prize in fiction. 

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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