WIBR Tournament – Round 2, Bracket 3 & 4

After today, the road to the Final Four is just one win away. We’ve got some heavy hitting match-ups, ladies and gents.

Click here for the entire bracket.

The What I’ve Been Reading Tournament of Books
Bracket Three:

Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck
Rabbit Angstrom – John Updike

It’s a pity that Travels with Charley was in this bracket. Though let’s be honest – it made it a round further than I had expected. The simple fact is, at the time of writing, I am still trying to figure out if Rabbit Angstrom or The Road will make the Final Four.

Which, I guess, writes Travels with Charley out before it even had a chance.

That’s too bad. Travels with Charley might be the perfect sunny day camping book. While reading Rabbit Angstrom would require an entire month of sunny camping trips.

Rabbit Angstrom

The Winner:
Rabbit Angstrom – John Updike

You Shall Know Our Velocity! – Dave Eggers
The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Dave Eggers, your cuteness fails you.

McSweeney’s is great, and this book was good, but none of it seems to have any social impact. You never quite grasp the idea that a book can be powerful without throwing yourself into it.

The main character of your life doesn’t need to be the main character of your books.

With A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, it was okay. It was a great plot device, and it was a touching book. It’s your best, and the only one I’d read again.

With What is the What, you never failed to mention your involvement in the book, and while you never physically showed up in the story, you were always there, floating above the story, reminding us of your worth.

But the worst was with You Shall Know Our Velocity. A great story, marred by your infernal meddling. You just had to butt in, throw a wrench in anything we had believed at the time, breaking down the fourth wall and wandering into our engaging fiction novel.

Cormac McCarthy would never do that. He’d just kill the entire nation for our pleasure.

The Road

The Winner:
The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Bracket Four:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (ELIC) was read with rapt attention. Then We Came to the End (TWCE) was read quickly, devoured in just three days.

ELIC is multi-layered, featuring touching relationships and a three-tiered historical set of characters. TWCE is about advertising.

ELIC is filled with beautiful imagery, a tragic story and clever typography. TWCE is written in the simple and expressive style of a copywriter.

ELIC and TWCE could be on separate ends of the spectrum, yet both had a feeling of lightheartedness, though ELIC’s lightheartedness hid a sleeping remorse. TWCE’s lightheartedness didn’t hide anything but a good time.

That’s all fine and good.

What really matters is that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a great book with great characters. But Then We Came to the End is a book I can relate to. And laugh with. Over and over again.

I guess that wins, right?

Then We Came to the End

The Winner:
Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris

Black Swan Green – David Mitchell
Like Life – Lorrie Moore

I feel like I’ve already reviewed this match-up. Except in slightly different circumstances, I guess.

Lorrie Moore, in the grand scheme of writers, is not Jorge Luis Borge. Of course, neither is David Mitchell – it wasn’t the quality of the stories that knocked Mirror of Ink out, but the impact and length.

Still, David Mitchell’s short story collection resonated with me because it was joined together to form a perfect novel-like progression of total dork to nearly accepted cool kid. It felt good to me, like all of us total dorks had been somehow vindicated through Mitchell’s stories.

And, if I remember correctly, I chose Like Life to win because…

I just liked Lorrie Moore better.

No real reason. It’s hard to explain. Maybe I’m just a sucker for stories set in New York City. Maybe I like a slice of city life more than I like a slice of trailer park trash.

Or maybe I just liked it better. Let’s go with that.

Nothing against Lorrie Moore, who’s one of my favorites in the short story genre (if you’re curious, you’ve got to read “People Like That are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk” from Birds of America) but Black Swan Green has stuck with me a lot better.


The Winner:
Black Swan Green – David Mitchell

This was lovingly handwritten on April 25th, 2008