Reader Letters

Tournament Thought

While the idea of the Tournament of Books is excellent, might I suggest an addition to the following years’ tournaments? Audience participation, of course. Your readers would, I am sure, be delighted to weigh in with their own pronouncements on the relative merits of the various books and vote. So in addition to the judges’ version, as it currently stands, let’s have a readers’ choice, as well.

Andrew Stancek

Kevin Guilfoile, tournament co-chairman, responds:

Early in our discussion of the Tournament of Books, we considered ways to invite audience participation (mostly in the form of voting), but we ultimately decided against it for both logistical and philosophical reasons. We wanted the tournament to be fun, but we also wanted it to celebrate our love of great contemporary literature. If we had put radio buttons next to each book and invited everyone to vote in each pairing, most of the votes would come from people who hadn’t read both books and many would come from people who hadn’t read either book at all. I guarantee you Tom Wolfe would have taken a severe beating from people who had read nothing but IACS’s bad press. And what would have stopped Philip Roth from paying his nieces and nephews in Toblerone to vote a kajillion times for
The Plot Against America? We really didn’t want to turn this into American Lit Idol.

Even though we started this as something of a goof, I have been delighted at the quality of the reviews in the tourney. They have been thoughtful and well-written and concise and uncynical (look at Maud Newton’s review for a terrific example). Every morning these past two weeks I’ve looked forward to clicking on that Rooster link at the top of the TMN page.

However, I think you’re right. It would make the tournament more compelling if we could figure out a way to involve TMN readers more directly. Perhaps we could have readers fill in their brackets ahead of time and give prizes to the entries with the best predictions. Maybe, as you suggest, we could have a democratic “shadow tournament” and compare the reviewers’ picks with the readers’ selections. A twist like that would be an exciting addition for the Second Annual ToB.
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