The 2016 Tournament of Books - Semifinals, Day Two

The 2016 Tournament of Books - Semifinals, Day Two

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra vs. The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The tough questions in the Tournament often come in the later rounds where you're forced to consider two books that you liked, and of course the easy answer is to say that people should read both, but as Highlander taught us–there can be only one.

And in this case, funny enough, the books share a lot in common. Both have a dark, absurdist worldview. Both made me laugh out loud. Both are very writerly books, in the sense that they way each author is telling the story is central to the book's appeal. Of course I also know people who have resisted both books or were at least left cold by them. Language can do that and when walking the tightropes that each does, it's almost inevitable that some people will resist being pulled along for a variety of reasons. I know people who aren't nearly as enthusiastic about each book as I am and as others are.

Maybe it's a question of what one likes. After all I do like dark humor, I enjoy the puzzle structure that the individual stories of Marra's book force you to think about create connections. At the same time I can see people getting annoyed by certain elements. Also I loved The Sellout but it's so absurd and funny that a lot of people just won't connect with it because of that - simply the tenor of the humor has caused a lot of people I know to push back a little even if they like many aspects of Beatty's book. Also while Marra's book has some very funny moments, the humor is a much more straight forward kind and not the intense way of Beatty's book.

In the end, I just liked Tsar a little more.

My Verdict: The Tsar of Love and Techno

At the Tournament:  The Sellout.

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