2024 Tournament of Books: Boys Weekend vs Blackouts

I’ve often wondered how the original seeding works in the Tournament of Books. Are they looking for unlikely matchups? Is it just random? However it goes, this is certainly an odd pairing.

Blackouts is very much the embodiment of the Important Novel. It won the National Book Award and treats of a Serious subject, a social history of homosexuality in the twentieth century blending fact and fiction in a seemless way so that even the question of whether the central characters are real people is left ambiguous. Add in blackout poetry from mid-century books about homosexuality and the result is something Literary with a capital L.

No one will mistake the story of Boys Weekend for thinly veiled actual events. A graphic novel telling of a bachelor party in a libertarian sea island nation where no laws apply featuring a monster-worshipping cult and clones and a trans-femme central character trying to make sense of her role among the men she went to college with whose lives have diverged greatly from her own. And yet, somehow this felt more real to me than Blackouts. Maybe I’m just feeling contrary, but this was my choice for the winner of this round.

My judgment on the judgment

Once again, I go against the tide, with my choice not advancing. Although I have to admit that reading Leah Schnelbach’s commentary it sure sounded like she wanted to advance Boys Weekend. I suspect that she might have felt a bit pushed towards picking Blackouts because she felt some shame in preferring the graphic novel over the Important Book, but me, I have no such shame.


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