Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Dust Cover Dust-Up 2013 - Round 1, Part 1

All right. I’ve just started about twenty times to do a top ten list. And I don’t know how to do it! Too many books, too many reasons why I love them or hate them. So, let’s do something sillier. Let’s do a tournament. In order of when I started reading them, let's pit books against each other and see what comes up. At very least, there should be strangeness. 

I'll post five battles at a time, every couple of days. I can't get through the first round until after December 31st, to cover every book I read this year.

Or, as my friend Kilo Pascal put it:

Page-Off, Cover-to-Cover, which novel will GROVEL?! 
Which writing will come out FIGHTING?! 
Which Paperback will TAKE IT BACK?! I
It's time for the drag-down, knuckle-biting tournament of the year! 
Five Battles! One Blog! Don't you miss...

 The Dust Cover Dust-Up 2013!

First Five Battles of Round One:

Infinite Jest vs. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

           Winner: Infinite Jest! 

Partly it’s the immense feeling of satisfaction I got from finishing Infinite Jest. Partly it’s because Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell never really got inside my brain the way I hoped it would. But Infinite Jest wins this one. It’s amazing, occasionally boring, but audacious in a way that definitely lifts it over Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. 

Collected Poems of Philip Larkin vs. Born To Run

          Winner: Collected Poems 

While I didn’t love the poetry, the later “cranky old man” poems lift this above the fairly straightforward nonfiction about extreme long distance running. Neither set my world on fire, but what I remember from almost a  year ago had me smiling at Larkin’s poems on occasion, even though a lot of his earlier ones seemed whiny. 

A Tiny Bit Marvellous vs. The Casual Vacancy

          Winner: The Casual Vacancy! 

Let’s see. A book I really didn’t like up against a book I thoroughly enjoyed! The Casual Vacancy examines poverty in ways that are difficult and complex, expressed through Rowling’s incredibly readable style. A Tiny Bit Marvellous is about a family of emotionally stunted...let’s just let you fill in the rest of that sentence yourselves, shall we? 

The Seduction of an English Scoundrel vs. Invisible Man

          Winner: Invisible Man 

I almost feel like I have to apologize to Ralph Ellison for this match-up. If it helps, there was not even a second when I thought “Hmmm. Trashy romance over utterly amazing novel about blackness in the United States?” Not even a nanosecond. I promise. Pretty much anything would have won over Seduction, but I should stress now how much Invisible Man was one of the best books I read this year. 

Ulysses vs. Altered Carbon

          Winner: Altered Carbon 

Okay, before the hate mail starts, let me remind you that this is an EXTREMELY subjective list of the books I enjoyed this year. Sometimes it’ll be the classics. Sometimes it won’t be. If Ulysses hadn’t taken me five months to read (it was a mistake to read it at the same time as Infinite Jest, yes), the results might have been different. It’s a great book, a classic, and in the end, I just enjoyed the noir stylings of Altered Carbon more. 

So, what do you think of the first battles? Comments? Virulent disagreement? 

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