Congratulations to Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, which claimed victory in the 2013 Tournament of Books today after a hard-fought battle with 15 other great works of fiction from 2012. The final decision was made by a poll of all of the tournament judges along with co-founder Rosecrans Baldwin, and in the end Johnson’s picaresque tale of Jun Do, a North Korean boy whose life leads him through terror and absurdity to a surreal pinnacle, won out over John Green’s bestselling young-adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars.
In his semifinal judgment that brought The Orphan Master’s Son to the finals, tournament judge (and novelist) Lev Grossman wrote: “As I read this book I was repeatedly confronted by passages like this, moments that not only stunned me as a reader by their beauty and sadness and horror and intelligence, but also as a writer of fiction to the point where I kept asking myself, how the hell is he doing this?”
For a fascinating — and entertaining — rundown on the history of this marvelous event, concluding its ninth year as a literary Internet sensation, see our interview with Tournament ringmasters Rosecrans Baldwin, Andrew Womack, Kevin Guilfoile, and John Warner. And to learn more about what it takes to referee one of these matches, we talked with judges Lev Grossman and Elliott Holt.
On behalf of the Review — and Tournament sponsor NOOK by Barnes & Noble — we congratulate Adam Johnson, along with all of the authors whose books were selected for the event, and thank the organizers and judges for providing us with a very special kind of March Madness. Now to place our bets for 2014… – Bill Tipper