Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2012 Tournament of Books: Judges Wishlist

Well, I thought yesterday’s 2012 Tournament of Books forecast would quench my thirst for Rooster talk, but it turns out it only made it worse.

So, today we’re back with more; this time looking at the judges. Had a good crop of judges last year, but a dragoon of new judges is surely in the offing. Here’s who I’d like to see, using last year's mix as a guide.

Group A: The Morning News Staff

This Year: 
Rosencrans Baldwin, Matthew Baldwin, Andrew Womack

Wishlist for Next Year: 
They get to pick their team here, but I’d like to see them go from 3 slots to 2. Let’s slot the Baldwin brothers in here, if for no other reason than the mental image of Stephen and William Baldwin trying to judge a literary prize.

Group B:  Novelists

This Year:
Jessica Francis Kane, Sarah Manguso, and Jennifer Weiner

Wishlist for Next Year: 
Here’s an idea: If you win, then you come back to judge, kinda like how last year’s Best Actress and Best Actor winners come back to present the award. So Jennifer Egan, you’re up.

And we need a lightning rod pick here to replace Weiner---and what more charged selection could you find than the dissembling, writer-factory foreman turned self-publisher James Frey?

That leaves a wildcard pick and the whole deep blue sea to choose from, so let’s go with Dave Eggers, man of many literary hats. (Note: I know all three of these are big fish now, but let me say this: no one is above The Tournament of Books. If you are offered a spot, refuse it, and I hear about it somehow, I pledge never to buy your books. Wait, no way I can hold to that. I pledge never to buy your books new: I will wait out used copies from now until the rapture. So there's $7.34 you'll never see. You've been warned)

Group C: Journalists

This Year:
Radhika Jones and Kate Ortega

Wishlist for Next Year: 
Ta-nehsi Coates might be better at what he does than any other blogger out there. Plus, he likes Edith Wharton, so he’s in.

Carolyn Kellog is the hardest working woman on the literary web, so she’s in. This group was easy.

Group D: Critics

This Year: 
Anthony Doerr, C. Max McGee, Elif Batuman, John Williams

Wishlist for Next Year:
The man with the hardest-core literary podcast running, Edward Champion is not afraid to ruffle feather (or not pluck them out entirely), and we need a little piss and vinegar.

And though she doesn’t write as much on her own site as she used to, I still read Maud Newton whenever she has something new, wherever it appears. So should you.

Ron Charles is not only a great reviewer, but also sportingly willing to play along with internet silliness. I think he also gets the prestige chair of being the lead judge for the final round. Wearing bacon yields results. Let that be a lesson to us all.

The remaining spot goes to Salon co-founder Laura Miller, who writes about damn near everything about books you could ask for.

Group E: Musicians

This Year: 
Hamilton Leithauser and John Roderick

Wishlist for Next Year: 
Getting rid of this category. I like going outside of the strictly literary, but not sure that indie rock bands is where I want to go next. A bit of brain-storming led me to think of Josh Topolsky, formerly Editor-in-Chief of Engadget, frequent tech correspondent for Jimmy Fallon, and soon-to-be Editor-in-Chief of a new tech website through SB Nation. Topolsky is a confirmed book nerd, but also a guy right on the front lines of our increasingly digital lives.

Second off-the-menu choice is Harvard professor Werner Sollors. Lest you groan with the prospect of deconstruction, check out A New Literary History of America, which Sollors co-edited with Greil Marcus. Hip, hip stuff.

Group F: Non-fiction

This Year: 
Matt Dellinger

Wishlist for Next Year: 
Sadly, Dellinger’s effort was wanting. I sincerely doubt that Isabel Wilkerson could do anything half-ass; the research she did for The Warmth of Other Suns was at-least 150% assed.

Group G: Booksellers

This Year: 
Michele Filgate

Wishlist for Next Year:
I thought having a bookseller was particularly wise and Filgate did well. Let’s turn up the volatility a notch though and go with the flame-throwing Guy Montag of Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. (I hope he judges State of Wonder, because just the word "Amazon" is liable to spark a grand mal seizure.)

And I am going to pull a two-fer here, because I can't pick one without the other: Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness from Books on the Nightstand. Maybe they would announce their decision as a podcast? At any rate, their damn infectious positivity is a key part of my podcasting routine and I know they are fans of the Tournament of Books.

Group H: Blogger

This Year: 

Wishlist for Next Year: 
Though several of last year’s judges have online presences of various kinds, we need a true book blogger, someone with passion and personality. Rebecca Joines-Schinsky, would you please stand up.


Alright, that's my full field. Who else might be good judges?


  1. I 2nd Guy Montag - great post!

  2. Read this: http://dft.ba/-anderson and tell me M.T. Anderson wouldn't be a fantastic pick. I wish the TOB had been open to YA when Feed came out because I think it would've gotten pretty far.

  3. 1) Jeff, I'm totally going to kiss you the next time I see you, and I will not be sorry.

    2) Guy Montag's real name is Geoffrey Jennings, and he is even crazier and more awesome in person.

    3) I wasn't lying about the kissing thing. I'm coming for ya.

  4. Great call on Coates. I love that guy.

  5. I want to see a photo of the ape wearing red lipstick.

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