WIBR Tournament – Round 2, Bracket 1 & 2
Sixteen books have been knocked out already, with fifteen more yet to be served their “go home” papers. Some heavy hitters have already been sent away: The Grapes of Wrath, Gilead and White Teeth all had aspirations of going far into the tourney.
Now, we’re paring down to the final eight. Who else will be going home early?
The What I’ve Been Reading Tournament of Books
Housekeeping – Marilynn Robinson
Hey, I love sports as much as the next guy, and Michael Lewis is one of the best at writing about sports in a way that appeals to the semi-casual fan – those people who are passionate about one sport and casual about the rest of them, who can spout off the important statistics yet aren’t bogged down by a weighted knowledge of irrelevant information.
Die-hards might find him too pandering and general. Non-fans find him boring and tedious (though he has a way of reaching out to those non-fans with a personal side to every story). But everyone in between – which is to say most of us – probably have a hard time finding much fault.
That’s really all I can say, though. When you boil everything down, Moneyball is a sports book – suffering two horrible strikes against it; it’s a non-fiction book (which I tend to draw away from) and it’s a sports book (which throws it into the novelty pile) – while Housekeeping is a beautiful masterpiece that I read, in part, while rocking my beautiful two-week old daughter to sleep. The choice is pretty easy.
Housekeeping – Marilynn Robinson
Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth – Chris Ware
I look at these two books and I can’t help but be drawn to Jimmy Corrigan.
Why is that?
I won’t lie. When I started matching the brackets up, I didn’t expect Ware’s graphic novel to make it past the first round, let alone take on two great novels like White Teeth and Fortress of Solitude.
But the more I think about it, the more endearing Jimmy Corrigan becomes. I keep reminding myself of how wonderful it is. One of the saddest things I’ve ever read, but wonderful all the same.
Maybe Fortress of Solitude – a 2008 completion – hasn’t quite sunk in as a modern classic. Or maybe Jimmy Corrigan really is as good as I keep thinking.
Either way, Ware’s moving on.
Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth – Chris Ware
The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupéry
I’ve met Ivan Doig. He’s a very nice man – an older, patient man who admittedly came up with the name of his novel The Whistling Season before he had come up with any part of the story. He was humble and well spoken. He wasn’t at all what I expected, which was a welcome surprise.
I’ve never met Antoine de Saint Exupéry. But Kerrie’s grandfather has, during World War II. Both were pilots, and while I am unsure of the exact meeting place or circumstances, I know that the two did indeed meet. It’s the reason we found a special edition copy of The Little Prince for Kerrie’s grandfather during our honeymoon in New Orleans, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to read The Little Prince to embryonic Sierra.
Yes, I mentioned before that The Little Prince holds a trump card over many of the books in this competition – the “I read this to my baby when she was yet to be born.” But there’s something that has been mentioned twice already that pokes a hole in The Little Prince’s armor – there are books I read during those first few weeks that hold the same emotional tug.
I once wrote a post about how location and context can be just as important as content. It’s true. I remember where I was when I read Housekeeping, or Then We Came to the End – I was spending my first few weeks with Sierra, rocking her to sleep, reading with the aid of a night light (back in the days when rocking Sierra to sleep could be paired with another productive exercise). The Whistling Season was one of those books.
(A quick aside. Just to get the record straight, the books I read during those few weeks were very good – don’t think they’re getting a pass just because Sierra was present; remember, the surprisingly below-average The Sportswriter was read during that time as well.)
What it comes down to is that no matter what nostalgic slant I put on The Little Prince – no matter how many times Sierra will hear it, no matter how emotionally attached I am to its story, no matter what paternal urges tug me in its direction, no matter what physical connection I’ve had with the author – I can’t deny that, after all, it’s a children’s story. And while it may have made more of an emotional connection, The Whistling Season can make many of the same claims.
Taking the books at face value, for their content instead of their context, I find myself choosing The Whistling Season every time.
The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig
Feet on the Street: Ramblings Around New Orleans – Roy Blount, Jr.
This one really isn’t even fair. Sorry, Roy. You snuck through one round. You had to have expected to lose here.