The Tournament: A Novel of the 20th Century

The Tournament: A Novel of the 20th Century

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by John Clarke
     
 

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A novel of the 20th century in which the greatest thinkers and personalities engage in a two-week tennis tournament.

"If you didn't know better you'd think this city had gone crazy. The streets of Paris are full of celebrities and media, and out at the stadium the crowds are already huge as players pound the practice courts in preparation for the greatest

Overview

A novel of the 20th century in which the greatest thinkers and personalities engage in a two-week tennis tournament.

"If you didn't know better you'd think this city had gone crazy. The streets of Paris are full of celebrities and media, and out at the stadium the crowds are already huge as players pound the practice courts in preparation for the greatest tournament of the modern era. At the airport, where they've opened three more runways and put on extra staff, players and officials have been arriving like migrating birds. From all corners they've come, the stars of the modern game. What a line-up!" --from The Tournament

The most unusual tennis tournament in history is about to start. Albert Einstein is seeded fourth, Chaplin, Freud, and van Gogh are in the top rankings, and seeded first is Tony Chekhov. In all, 128 players--everyone from Louis Armstrong to George Orwell, Gertrude Stein to Coco Chanel--are going to fight it out until the exhilarating final match on center court.

The Tournament is a funny, strange, and beguiling book in which, game by game and match by match, the world's most creative thinkers put their tennis skills to the ultimate test. And if you read carefully, you'll be set for life--having learned the cultural history of the 20th century!

Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
Clarke has an ingenious flair for encapsulating a writer, artist or thinker in a few sentences . . . a funny, clever book
The Washington Post
What saves The Tournament...is the author's sportscaster-like enthusiasm and his ingenious flair for encapsulating a writer, artist or thinker in a few sentences. Clarke is generally an excellent parodist...and at his best he recalls the metaphysical playfulness of "paphysicians" Alfred Jarry and Raymond Queneau or the literary zaniness of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair and Lost in a Good Book. Catching the jokes in The Tournament also serves as a litmus test of one's cultural I.Q.—Michael Dirda
Publishers Weekly
Clarke's chatty latest novel boasts an outrageous premise: the greatest minds of the 20th century-128 of them to be exact-have gathered in Paris for a two-week tennis tournament. Hence there's "Jerry" Salinger, "SuperTom" (T.S.) Eliot, "Plum" (P.G.) Wodehouse and other luminaries (Darwin, Magritte, Earhart, Wittgenstein, Rachmaninov, Barthes, etc.) trading backhands and parrying wits. One-liners abound, about "Doc" Freud's theories regarding seeing ones' parents "in the act of congress" and "Ernie" Hemingway's constant search for the sun. Clarke's apparent aim-beneath the yuks-is to offer an entertaining cultural education. But with a new game beginning every few paragraphs, readers are introduced to a dizzying array of characters who never transcend caricature. Dali plays imaginary tennis, Auden expounds in verse and Munch sits "throughout the press call with his hands up to his face, his mouth open and a look of blind panic in his eyes." A few short interludes allow relief from the tennis-game-recap narrative, most notably the communist conspiracy surrounding the disappearance of Rosa Luxemburg and a number of other individuals from the tournament, but the novel quickly returns to tennis. The author of The Complete Dagg, A Dagg at My Table and others writes an intermittently amusing tale, but readers may feel this was a great idea best realized in a shorter, more comic form. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Australian Clarke's first US publication is a genius-touched tour de farce that imagines the 20th-century's intellectual giants competing in the biggest tennis tournament ever held. The contest, in Paris, goes on for 36 days, one chapter per each, with amusements major and minor abounding from the start. Here are some arrivals, for example: "Buster Keaton was catapulted in from Belgium, Escher arrived through the departure lounge, Dali came by overnight post and Alice Toklas sent herself as an attachment. Einstein said he had come by tram. 'But there is no tram to Paris,' corrected George Plimpton . . . . 'That might account for the time lapse,' Einstein explained." And so it goes, for 35 more days, in a wondrously comic tumult of personalities, anachronisms, jokes-and, of course, tennis. The sportswriter's tone is just-right irreverent-as when "Bertie Russell" plays "the Spockster" (that's the doctor), or James Joyce goes against "SuperTom" Eliot. Clarke's one-liners can be sharp as SuperTom's aces: "Not bad," says Virginia Stephen-Woolf, "But it would be nice to get a boom of one's own"; "I was lucky," says Beckett; " 'Marlene [Dietrich] looked great today,' said Pavlova. 'I was lucky to get on top of her.' " All is not jocular, though. Paul Robeson leaves his country; Rosa Luxemburg is murdered; "Amelia Earhart is also missing"; "Bessie Smith never made it to the hospital"; and Anna Akhmatova "disappeared from the circuit." Still, amid the century's tragedies, humor persists, some of it biographic and scientific ("Wodehouse and Isherwood have departed for the US. Einstein left yesterday, last night and again this morning"), tons of it literary ("Eliot was now cautioned for banging hisraquet on the ground and yelling 'Jug, jug, jug, fucking juuuuuugggggg!"), with author Clarke even showing his own stuff in some wonderfully sensitive parodies of the styles of the greats. Who wins? Find out for yourself, and be dazzled along the way as, thanks to the indefatigable Clarke, you also brush up on last century's intellectual history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781401398637
Publisher:
Hachette Books
Publication date:
09/10/2003
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

"If you didn't know better you'd think this city had gone crazy. The streets of Paris are full of celebrities and media, and out at the stadium the crowds are already huge as players pound the practice courts in preparation for the greatest tournament of the modern era. At the airport, where they've opened three more runways and put on extra staff, players and officials have been arriving like migrating birds. From all corners they've come, the stars of the modern game. What a line-up!"

Meet the Author

John Clarke is the author of The Complete Dagg, The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse, A Dagg at My Table, and Still the Two. He lives in Australia.

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The Tournament: A Novel Of The 20Th Century 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Benk More than 1 year ago
Clarke, an Australian-New Zealand author, poet and screenwriter, has produced an entire novel of original and utterly compelling one-liners covering a truly impressive range of 20th century philosophers, scientists, poets, dancers, painters and so forth, as they compete in the intellectual tennis match of the 20th century: Salvador Dali is cautioned for hanging his watch over the net, Einstein's serves only appear to exceed the speed of light and James Joyce's on-court verse is a wonder to behold (here, in his match against an increasingly peeved T S Eliot): "'Tell me a tale of Jim and Tom' hummed Joyce to himself, 'all of the river is flowing Jim, the river is flowing over him, the rivering under the floater Tom, the blow to just under the nose is gone, and into the afterglow is one, and go with afterburners on, and go with the flow from here to there, and go with knowing your man Flaubert, and everythings fine and Dante there, and then as you hit the final straight, you hammer it down the line and wait, and look at the time and consummate.'" If you have even a superficial grasp of half the participants, it's endlessly entertaining and one can only marvel at Clarke's wit and insight.