This year’s Tournament of Books comes to an end today, after nearly a month of analyses, debates and thoughtful arguments. In the final round, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life squares off with James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, both of which are, in Héctor Tobar’s words, “unorthodox, historical novels.” Now that the verdicts are in, the only question is: who won? (You could also read the quarterfinal judged by our own Lydia Kiesling.)
“‘Poetry, I feel,” said Sylvia Plath in a radio interview in 1962, the year before her suicide, ‘is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far so fast in such a small space, you’ve got to burn away all the peripherals.'” Fifty years after her death, an argument for close reading.
One of the best parts of last month’s Cullman Center discussion between John Jeremiah Sullivan and Wells Tower was watching JJS carry on the conversation while sipping from a highball glass of whiskey. The essayist’s Southern roots and Irish ancestry of course make him no stranger to potent potables, which is why Danny Nowell’s “John Jeremiah Sullivan” cocktail is so appropriate.
New releases this week include Keith Richard’s rock memoir Life, reviewed for The Millions by Jim Santel, Michael Caine’s The Elephant to Hollywood, an “unabashedly old-school celebrity memoir” according to its New York Times review, and Stephen Sondheim’s songwriting book Finishing the Hat.