WELL. We’re down to the final two books I’ve read in 2015/16. Which one will triumph?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know which book would win until after I started working on this post. I’ve been thinking about it every day since I began the bracket, and I just really couldn’t decide. Couldn’t there just be a tie? NO. There couldn’t. Because that’s a cop-out.
So, I figured I’d break it down first by why each book should win. And then I’d decide.
1 The Serpent of Venice, Christopher Moore: This book could win for its creativity. Shakespeare is, understandably, difficult for many people to digest. Written literally hundreds of years ago, many people think that his works aren’t relevant. Christopher Moore’s book helps prove that so, so wrong. This book, which combines Othello and The Merchant of Venice (as well as a Poe story, the Cask of Amontillado), brings out all the best of Shakespeare in ways that modern audiences understand. While Pocket, the protagonist, is often insanely vulgar, he’s a perfect vessel to modernize Shakespeare’s incredible insults. It’s such a great way to bring the incredible storytelling Shakespeare presented his audience to Moore’s audience. Othello and The Merchant of Venice end up working so well intertwined, I couldn’t believe it. This new novel also brings out and highlights some of the most interesting and controversial elements of the plays. Because they were written 400 years ago, there’s a lot of aspects of human morality that have evolved. It’s great to see it in the present how writers and readers react to those things.
1 To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee: Okay, do we even need to talk about why this book matters? I wrote about it in the last post. This book is almost the pinnacle of morality. It shows not only why you should be kind to those you know, but why you should be kind to the people you don’t, because you never know when you’re going to be in a bind and will need some support. It so perfectly breaks down the small town way of living – especially in a time like the Great Depression. When everyone around you is poor, what does that look like, what does that mean? When Scout asks Atticus if they are poor, he says yes, but Scout knows they’re not as poor as X,Y,or Z, and we see throughout the book how that factors in. There’s a way of life in Macomb, and when Atticus disrupts it, well, all hell breaks loose. Jem’s moral ascension is one of the most interesting developments of the book. As he ages ever so slightly more than Scout understands, he’s thrust deeper into a world that he doesn’t understand because of his still childlike morality scale. And really, Harper Lee does all of this with a deft subtlety that shouldn’t be understated. It’s easy to know when you’re reading an important book as it happens. There’s a feeling inside that plants itself in your heart to let you know that when you’re done with the book, it’s still going to matter. And that’s what Lee did with this book for millions and millions of people.
So, with that all said. Who’s the winner? Both books really give the readers a special ability to see the way morality evolves over time, and each novel pushes us further to accept people for who they are, not specific society-created attributes. They’re both wonderful. But one needs to win, and it’s been the toughest decision between the two one seeds.
Our winner of the 2016 FifteenThousandPages “March” Madness Bracket is…
Christopher Moore’s The Serpent of Venice
Yup! It wins! I can’t believe it took down the GOLIATH that is To Kill a Mockingbird. But it does, for many of the same reasons that TKAM almost won. The Serpent of Venice highlights all of the problems that we’ve seen in the way Jews and Blacks have historically been treated and turns those issues on their heads. It’s a modern sentiment in a historical story in a way that TKAM doesn’t have, because TKAM is still so new in comparison. And that’s almost scary. You look at TKAM and how Tom Robinson was treated, and you can trace that treatment 400 years in the past to Othello and Shakespeare. Serpent of Venice is a much newer book, but it’s one with an old soul. These two books were absolutely my two favorite books I read last year, and the winner is the perfect one. Hail to the Victor.