2024 Tournament of Books: Dayswork vs Cold People

Cold People starts as a possible romantic comedy: an American college student is vacationing with her family in Lisbon and accepts an invitation for a private boat tour with a local who feels they have a strange connection.

And then.


The aliens serve largely as a huge plot device: All of humanity is given a short period of time to relocate to Antarctica. Those not on land when the deadline arrives are killed. The rump society (including our American college student and her Portuguese tour guide) try to rebuild a civilization in the inhospitable antarctic. Utopian socialism and genetic engineering ensue. A lot of the why questions are left unanswered which seems quite reasonable, really. The question is whether hte human side of the story satisfies. My initial impression is that it did.

Dayswork is, like Blackouts borderline not exactly a novel. The unnamed narrator has a biography that seems to line up with Jennifer Habel and the book is largely interior reflection on Herman Melville, life in the lockdown days of 2020 and marriage to another writer (who, while absent as a narrative voice in the novel is present on the byline). It’s interesting to note that we end up having a couple parallelisms in the seven books that have come up so far. Melville is both here and in The Auburn Conference (along with his little-known epic poem Clarel). Two books that blur the lines of what is a novel. And more to come!

I started out being skeptical of the approach that Dayswork took, with short one-paragraph sections (this is very much the prose of a poet), but as the book continued, I was sucked in and entranced. My choice for the winner: Dayswork.

My judgment on the judgment

Kudos to Anna E. Clark for getting it right! We both came to the same conclusion, although she expressed it so much better than I did. I’m doing a little dance over having my choice validated by one of the official judges.


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