Friday, March 23, 2012

Tournament of Books Update

Today's (March 23rd) Tournament of Books match up is between Teju Cole's Open City, which I have not read, and  The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides, which I did not care for.  Bracketwise, I should want The Marriage Plot to continue, but it won't bother me to see Open City advance.  I do intend to listen to Open City via audio and since I will be going to Texas next weekend, I should be able to get at least half way through it.  Yes, ToB will be over by then, but I will at least know what it is about.  Here is the link to today's ToB Match:  If this is not the correct match, just scroll to the proper one on the right hand side of the page.

Well, the tournament is not going how I would like it to.  First round, Salvage the Bones was tossed by some piece of light porn trash, Lightning Rods which then tossed Sense of an Ending in the next round.
Tigers Wife survived its first round match with The Stranger's Child but then was tossed by 1Q84.  This was very upsetting to me as I believe Tigers Wife to be superior to 1Q84.

On the other side of the Bracket, I don't care as much and Sisters Brothers took down State of Wonder and Swamplandia!  This is okay and even though Sisters Brothers is not a favorite of mine, I can see its charm and why it has lasted into the third round.

So, we will know who makes it to the next round in a couple hours.  Although none of my favorites will make it to the end, I am still having a good time watching the tournament progress.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Tournament of Books)

Yesterday's Tournament of Books match up was between Swamplandia by Karen Russell and Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWhitt.  My review for The Sisters Brothers is here: Sisters Brothers.

I did not love either of these books, but as the tournament continues, I am pulling for Sisters Brothers.  I did like it a bit more than Swamplandia!  Follow the tournament judging commentary here:  This may take you to the most recent match up so scroll to the correct set of books on the link to the right of the TOB site if that is the case.

Anyway, I have not yet posted my review of Swamplandia! so, here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

I listened to Swamplandia on audio. It was recommended by Ann on Books on the Nightstand, was a front runner for the Tournament of Books, and was high on many best of 2011 lists.

I thought the book was going to be about a teenaged girl growing up in a family that ran some sort of amusement park/gater boat ride. I was looking forward to the book because in the umpteen times I have ridden my bike in New Orleans I always think about taking one of those air boat cruises to see the gators. Plus, I was tickled to death the time I did see the gator in the overflow water off the levy when the Mississippi flooded last year.

I did not realize the book was going to be narrated by a young girl. The "teenager" I was expecting the protagonist to be was 12. Nor did I know that the main male character would be played by an older man who was the voice for a 17 year old.

I did not know that the book would have a heavy dose of magical realism or is this surrealism? Anyway after reading Murakami's 1Q84, I would have preferred a book that did not include ghosts, possessions (not things you own but your body being inhabited by said ghosts, and other far fetchedness.

Swamplandia was a book about a 12 year old girl, Ava, whose parents produced a carnival of sorts or maybe more of a circus with alligators instead of clowns. However, as the book starts we learn that the main draw to the park/island is Ava's mother who is dying of cancer. The rest of the book tells the awkward story of how the family copes. Oceola, Ava's older sister, ends up dabbling in the occult and her brother, Kiwi, goes to the mainland to work for Swamplandia's biggest competition while their father disappears to find investors for his next idea to save the park.

The story had a lot of potential, but I just did not enjoy it. I really got frustrated with the whole ghost/occult thing. This story line trudged in the murky swampy water for far too long. In the middle of the whole magical realism thing the author decides to walk firmly on the dark side by having the realism in "magical realism" slap you in the face. This incongruent incident bothered me in the context of the rest of the story and then nothing concerning this incident is ever addressed sufficiently in my opinion during the ending.

Kiwi's storyline was a little more light-hearted but still the book just did not seem plausible to me. And I just did not connect with the Chief or Osceola.

I would love to sit down with someone who enjoyed this book and discuss it further, but I don't know that I would recommend it to anyone.