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The new-style book award

Award-watchers love to gripe about the subjectivity and secrecy of jury-panel decisions. But lately a couple of book-related sites have gone one better and tried to create alternatives.

Late last year, Ontario’s Good Reports site staged a “Runaway Jury,” in which site proprietor Alex Good and poets Steven Laird and Zach Wells selected their own winner from the 2004 poetry shortlist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. (The Runaway Jury’s pick was David Manicom’s The Burning Eaves; the actual winner was Roo Borson’s Short Journey Upriver Toward Oishida.)

And now the American site The Morning News is running an ambitious competition in which more than a dozen writers and book-blog types will select the most worthy book of 2004. “The First Annual TMN Tournament of Books” will start with 16 notable literary novels published in ’04. The books will compete against each other in pairs, sports-playoff-style, until only two remain, at which point a final winner will be chosen. Each round of the competition will be judged by a different writer; in the first stage, posted on Monday, February 7, Claire Miccio compares Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America with Karen Shepard’s The Bad Boy’s Wife. She’s not too crazy about either, but gives Roth the nod. The Roth novel will go up against either Lily Tuck’s The News from Paraguay or T.C. Boyle’s The Inner Circle — whichever one gets chosen by judge Choire Sicha. The “Tournament of Books” runs on The Morning News every weekday until the end of February.

Related links:
Click here for the first installment in The Morning News’ “Tournament of Books
Click here for the introduction to the Tournament, and a downloadable list of the “playoff schedule
Click here for the Good Reports’ “Runaway Jury”