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The Morning News and Powells Present
2006 Tournament of Books
MARCH 22, 2006
Several people have pointed out to me, usually with a finger-poking “gotcha!” that as TOB commissioner, I failed to disclose the fact that I share a publisher with two of the books in this tourney—Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. I’d like to confront this accusation head on. First of all, Alfred A. Knopf publishes dozens of acclaimed books every year and the real scandal would be if they didn’t have at least two books in this year’s competition. Secondly, it’s not like Knopf has a holiday party at Bungalow 8 where Bill Clinton and Gabriel García Márquez goose model/actresses in elf costumes while Joyce Carol Oates licks tequila off John Updike’s surprisingly taut belly. Or if they do, I’ve never been invited, in which case why would I be doing secret favors for a company that doesn’t even invite me to its awesome holiday party? The real reason I didn’t mention it was because I thought it would be shameless and inappropriate to use my position as commissioner to promote my own work. This tournament should be about the 16 outstanding novels in competition; it is most certainly not about Cast of Shadows, which Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times called “gripping” and the Chicago Tribune called one of the best books of 2005. I hope that clears things up.

As for this match-up, The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole really didn’t have a chance, did it? When we randomly assigned the pairings to judges, we didn’t know about the fainting-couch crush Georgie has on Ishiguro. Let’s call this one an officiating error, like the 1998 Thanksgiving Day game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions, when Jerome Bettis clearly called heads before the sudden death overtime coin flip but the referee heard tails and three minutes later the Lions kicked a game-winning field goal. The Steel City feels your pain, Stephanie, but there’s little we can do for either of you now.