The Best Thing on the Net Right Now

I know Carter has interesting things to say about race relations in America, but how can you concentrate on them when they're surrounded by silly prose:"Julia was kicking herself, and not only because she and Mary might both be dead in five minutes." Don't you just hate it when you're about to be dead in five minutes? J.F. Kane, on New England White

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Last year at this time the claimant to that title, best on the net, was obviously The 2007 Science Spring Showdown (eventually won by Darwin). But lurking behind that, in a very close second, was The Morning News's 2007 Tournament of Books (eventually won by Cormac McCarthy's The Road). Since the Science Showdown is a triennial event, as everyone knows, it is easy to declare that this year's Tournament of Books is without a doubt the best thing going on right now on the net. Or web. Or both.

Here's the thing: the best part of the Tournament is the commentary by Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner. In every round a judge picks the winner between the two books. Kevin and John comment on the judge's write-up and decision-making process. If you wanna cut to the chase and get a good sample of them putting the beat down on one of the Judges, just go here. My discerning reading comprehension skills lead me to believe they don't care so much for Mark Sarvas, who writes the popular lit-blog The Elegant Variation. "I'm tempted to give Judge Sarvas the Dale Peck Pretentious A-Hole of the Tournament award for this review," is the kind of line that helps me draw such a conclusion.

As I write, they are into the Final Four. I've read none of those four. (I did read Jesse Ball's Samedi the Deafness recently which, damn you Luker, I hated.) They are:

(1 seed) Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke v. (1 seed) Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End

as judged by Gary Shteyngart

(Then We Came to the End took this round, but because there is a Zombie Round after this Final Four, where a book can come back from the dead as deemed by a pre-tournament poll of readers, we might still see Johnson's National Book Award winning novel about Vietnam again.)

(2 seed) Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao v. (2 seed) Marianne Wiggins' The Shadow Catcher

as judged by Nick Hornby

(Hornby, I see as I post this, has just found Diaz's widely praised book to be the winner.)

There we have it.

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