Tag Archives: Open City

ToB: The Sisters Brothers vs Open City CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

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You guys!  Yes!  A surprising and surprisingly large victory for The Sisters Brothers aka The BEST Brothers over the also fantastic Open City.  Look, when it comes down to it Open City probably has more literary merit.  It’s deeper and stays with you longer, and if you want a proper (mini) review see what Vivienne said the other week.  I haven’t read any Sebald, so I don’t have that as a reference point (I CHALLENGE YOU to find a review that doesn’t refer to him) but it’s a beautifully lyrical and haunted book, and Julius is a fascinating and evasive narrator.  That said…

F YEAH (family friendly small business blog) THE SISTERS BROTHERS!  That book was the best!  I loved it, AS YOU KNOW.  Did you love it?  If you didn’t GET A COPY NOW ($19.99 at the incomparable Sunflower Bookshop!).  If you did, I know right!  Hands down the most entertaining book I read last year, full of rich evocation of place and time, picaresque characters and adventures, fantastic protagonists (for sociopaths) and a wonderful story about greed, conscience, fate, mercy and murderin’ folks.

And to think I thought the CHAMPION would lose in the first round!

And with that victory celebrated thus ends the 2012 TOURNAMENT OF BOOKS!  My favourite literary event of the year is over, and now the long drudge of the REST of the literary awards.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  And, although the excitement of the tournament is over, keep reading the Sunflower Bookshop blog for more news, reviews, and whatever else I post on a particular day.

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ToB: The Sisters Brothers vs. Open City AND The Sisters Brothers vs. Lightning Rods

Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!

– Steven Helfenbaum, 2011.

Well my friends, this year’s Tournament edges towards its inevitable conclusion with round after round of joy.  First The Marriage Plot is eliminated, then through the magic of the Zombie Round my two favourites, Open City and I THINK YOU KNOW THE OTHER ONE (of which we have three more copies in stock!),  both live to fight another day.  AND the last book left that I haven’t read is eliminated!  (Though I bear it no ill will it is certainly easier to talk about books I HAVE read).  Whatever happens after this point will suit me just fine: either one of my two favourites will win or The Art of Fielding will, and that was ALSO totes great!  So in the way of commentary, I don’t have much.  Yay for everything I like winning lots and yay for The Sisters Brothers for being popular enough to come back?

In the commentary Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner asked a couple of guests what book they would have had in the Tournament if they could, and for me that answer would totes be The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips (which is STILL unavailable in paperback in Australia, and thanks to a pesky thing called the law I can’t get the overseas paperbacks in for the shop).  It’s just such a fun, clever, meticulously written book and I loved it and it was the best.  DON’T WORRY YOU GUYS I can give it a proper review if it does come out in paperback and we get it into the shop.  (And I say pfft to hardbacks, what am I a BILLIONAIRE? [No.  Also if only]).

But with the Tournament fast coming to a close my favourite literary event of the year is over, and FURTHERMORE we are totes left with a gap in bloggage.  I won’t lie to you folks, blogging the Tournament was an easy and excellent way to generate good book content, and it was great fun.  So will the blog be able to continue without the Tournament?  You’ll just have to find out by READING IT.

Love yas,
Steven

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ToB: The Rest of the Quarter Finals

Yessss!  You guys!  First The Sisters Brothers wins, then The Marriage Plot loses!  Ha!  Victory!  And with that gloating over let’s get to the first round.

So, as discussed, my favourite book in the tournament is GOING FORTH!  But clearly not FROM THIS SHOP.  Why has no one bought the last copy?  I only have speculation.  Could it be that the Western is not a hugely appealing genre, especially in Australia, no matter the literary merit of the book in question?  Could it be that every one already has one (we HAVE actually sold a number)?  Could it be that it isn’t in a visible enough location?  Could it be that you who read the blog don’t love me?  Could it be that I haven’t been shilling it when people ask for a recommendation because I can just TELL the people wouldn’t like it?  WHO CAN SAY.  All I know is that you should watch the blog for more updates on the availability of that last copy.

SO, that book v. Swamplandia!.  Similarities: quirky first person narration from endearing characters, magical realism, poetic writing.  Differences: the rest of the books!  I’ve already discussed both their individual merits in their respective ToB posts so you know how I feel about both of them.  One further thing I will say is that, while this is CERTAINLY more an indictment of me than of Swamplandia!, at times I found Ava’s magical perception of events kind of irritating (and Ossie’s even more so!).  I felt like yelling at them SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read: Your stupid ghost thing is INCREDIBLY annoying Ossie and also shut up! And Ava THAT DUDE’S TOTES A PAEDOPHILE END SPOILER

The book was clever, it ramped up the tension, but at times I wanted to skip ahead till what I knew would happen happened.

THAT SAID!  Overall it is certainly a great debut novel, I wish I had one iota of the talent that Karen Russell shows.

The Sisters Brothers had tension too, but never the irritating kind, so that’s a win for me.

And so my favourite book of last year lives to fight another day!

As for the SECOND match up, may I just say haHA!  Goodbye least favourite book of last year!  Now I don’t want to spend too much time talking about this round (due to much previous discussion and incoming [eventually] EUGNIDESTRUCTION 2012), but I am very happy with the outcome.  Open City is a fantastic book, and Julius, its narrator, is a fascinating character.  As for a revelation that occurs towards the end of the book, I don’t want to spoil it here, but I WILL refer you to the comments on the match up because there is some seriously smart and interesting discussion going on there.  I’m glad that the more deserving book won (though Marriage Plot has it’s fair share of supporters, like that Fay girl).

That’s what I’ve got, keep a-readin’ to find out about the (eventual) sale of the last copy of The Sisters Brothers.

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ToB: The Art of Fielding vs Open City

So!  We’ve finally got to the end of the first round in Sunflower Bookshop’s mildly bizarrely ordered coverage of the Tournament of Books.  Followed a bit later with the mildly surprising AND HUGELY DELICIOUS victory of The Sisters Brothers (The Best Brothers) over Swamplandia!.  But first this round!

These books you guys!  Some of the (second) best books in the Tournament, head to head with their FISTS.  Book fists.  I loved them both.  I actually have a tattoo of Teju Cole making out with Chad Harbach.  Watched serenely from on high by Patrick DeWitt (WHY HAS NO ONE BOUGHT THE LAST COPY OF THE SISTERS BROTHERS IN STORE? It’s only $19.99 for AT LEAST 100 times that value!).

Let’s start with The Art of Fielding, aka the hardest to sell book in the shop.  “Why”, I hear you ask?  Well let me give youa summary mon frere.  The Art of Fielding follows young college baseball player… THERE. RIGHT THERE is why this book is hard to sell.  I preface every recommendation with “you’re not going to like how it sounds at first but bear with me”.  Australia just does not care.  “BUT” I tell them, “it is about so much more!  And it is!  But let me continue first, you jerk.  The Art of Fielding follows young college baseball player Henry Skrimshander, star of the Westish College team.  Henry is preternaturally gifted, and his skill, guided and developed by fellow player and bffl Mike Schwarz, raises the team into a force to be reckoned with.  Until one game, Henry makes a bad throw, his first, which goes off course and seriously injures his team/room-mate Owen.  After that, Henry finds he is unable to throw, seriously jeopardising his team.  This throws stoic-philosopher-loving Mike into a crisis of his own, having spent so much time on Henry to the detriment of his own life and law school ambitions.  MEANWHILE!  College President Guert Affenlight falls in love with Owen, and his daughter Pella comes to Westish, escaping an awful, controlling husband and trying to get her life back on track.  And all of it is GREAT.  Harbach made a storm when he was offered, like, a jillion dollars as an advance on this (his first!) book, and he totes deserves it!  This was one of the most enjoyable books of this years tournament.  It’s true that beyond its plot and excellent writing that there was nothing more to it, no deep philosophy or issues that will keep you a-thinkin’ after you’ve read the book, like there were in Open City, but you know what that’s ok when a book is this good.  I was engrossed in each of the character’s arcs and kinda wanted them all to be my besties.  Except Henry, really, as the judge mentioned BUT as someone wrote in the comments, this book is about MUCH more than Henry.  Some have called Pella problematic.  I would refer them to Madeline in The Marriage Plot.  But also I don’t see that so much.  Of anyone, she displays the most dramatic growth in the book, and she is the one who brings everyone together for the book’s incredible ending.  Soo basically?  The Art of Fielding was a super enjoyable, well written, lovely example of good ol’ fashioned literary fiction that everyone should enjoy and just BEAR WITH ME when I describe it to you OK?

And then there was Open City!  Which was also really good!  And here briefly to say that same thing, but better, is Vivienne, our newest comrade at the bookshop:

Vivienne: A young man wanders the streets of New york, sharing his thoughts, reflections, insights and snippets of his history. Through his beautiful, meditative prose we gradually learn that he is a psychiatrist, he is Nigerian and he is alone. His musings on art, history, music, love, politics are impressive, interesting and often challenging. It reads like a journal but is much more crafted and cohesive than that; it seems deceptively easy and fluid. He travels to Brussels, ostensibly to search for a lost grandmother but once there does not really try to find her. Instead he continues his wanderings and musings, connecting with strange and disparate characters along the way………the Moroccan phone salesman with an impressive knowledge of philosophy and politics,who is obsessed by the notion of difference, the doctor from Boston who only wants to talk about Jazz……….. I haven’t yet finished the book but I suspect the themes of racism, otherness, how we find our place will deepen as I continue to read. It’s not really like anything I have ever read before but I am intrigued and know that i will feel I want to read it again for the things I missed the first time around. There is so much to relish here.

Steven: Well, I’M going to stop talking about books.  Thanks to Vivienne for enlightening us all, and for showing me up.  THANKS.  Open City is a beautiful, lyrical book with a fascinating protagonist, one who is an outsider everywhere he goes, who is deeply introspective yet deeply guarded about himself (see, e.g. the revelation near the end).  And it’s currently out of stock!  But hopefully it will show up at the shop in the next couple of weeks with the attractive price tag of $19.99.  So Open City won, but I would have been happy either way.

And now we’ve finished our coverage of round one!  Fay has filled you all in on the surprising results of the first two quarter finals (both of which bode well for The Marriage Plot [The Worst Plot] according to my long term/highly faulty strategisin’), so tomorrow I will revel in The Sisters Brothers.  And depending on Fay’s next availability (the Venetian jerk) Eugenidestruction is coming soon.

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