Due to events beyond our control, the final four of our tournament of books has been delayed. But, like all good things that we’ve waited for, this is worth the wait. Because we haven’t seen you for a while, let me take the time to recap how we got here:
The Voyage Out Book Group meets to discuss novels on the last Sunday of every month at 5pm at BookPeople Bookstore in Austin. We’ve been doing so for four years. Being a nostalgic and bored group, we decided to pit our favorite books against each other in a battle for book nerd supremacy. This is arbitrary, unscientific, and a lot of fun.
Here’s the final four match-ups:
Galore by Michael Crummey versus Provinces of Night by William Gay
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee versus Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
So who’s going to the championship? Lets see…
Galore Vs. Provinces of Night
Galore is the little engine that could. It stared down Randall Kenan’s incredible Southern parable in the first round, knocked out Japan’s first Nobel Laureate in the second round, and crushed the highly favored Blood Meridian in the third round. It arrives to the final four bloody, but battle tested. That makes sense for this big narrative about a small village. We love Galore because the coastal town of Paradise Deep feels like it could live well next to the Land of Oz and because it resembles everything we love about the rural American South. We love Galore because it has whales and sex and family and violence and a timeless narrative that challenges the reader to pay attention. We love Galore because it introduced the group to our favorite publishing house: Other Press. Is it possible that Other Press is publishing books with our group in mind? I’m not sure, but it feels that way sometimes.
Provinces of Night also took a tough road to the final four. Gay beat Canada’s biggest name in Atwood, sent Oscar Casares back to Texas, and squeaked by my favorite writer Adichie’s coming-of-age masterpiece. Gay is a writer’s writer, and a true craftsman. I tend to shy away from calling books ‘important’, but this book just might fit that description.
After a back and forth battle, Galore and Michael Crummey come out on top.
Disgrace Vs. Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
A battle of titans. Seriously. How did these two get on the same side of the bracket? I don’t know what happens when these two get on the field and start punching each other in the spleen.
Coetzee crushed Carpentier’s odd Lost Steps, walked all over Cocteau’s little children’s story, and blew the American icon Joan Didion’s sparse novel out of the water–it has been largely unchallenged. We’ve, thankfully, been bettered by Claire Messud’s public lecture on the need to ‘like’ the characters we read about. Messud rightly points out the silliness in asking for likeability in our fictionalized characters. David Lurie is incredibly unlikeable, and this book is perfect.
We worried a little about reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicle with this group. It’s a huge book. Could we trust each other to finish the book? Could we trust ourselves to focus enough to discuss the book in two solid hours? We thought about reading a shorter, and in my opinion lesser, Murakami title. I’m glad we went for the big book. The take away from this book is simple: when a cat talks in a book, that means a cat talks. Accept it, don’t over read it, just take the book on its own terms. Murakami has talking cats in his books.
There’s an old saying, styles make fights, and this fight came down to two styles. Coetzee’s novel is a little more controversial, a little more debatable, a little more anger-inducing. Because of these things, it’s a better book for this forum. By a smidge, Disgrace wins!
That sets up a contest between one word titles: Galore Vs. Disgrace for all the marbles.
If you’re interested in being part of this conversation for our next tournament, please come see us on the 30th of this month. We’ll be discussing Roberto Bolano’s By Night in Chile. Come by, we’d love to see you.