The entries for this year’s TOB Contest have been tabulated. Based on these entries, the dynamics of Tournament of Books 2012 are very different from those of Tournament of Books 2011.
TOB 2011 saw three books tied among entrants as most likely to see Round two (Freedom, Room, and Super Sad True Love Story) whereas there is a single, and overwhelming, favorite in the first round this year: The Sense of an Ending (90% predict first round success). The Tiger’s Wife (86%) and Swamplandia! (83%) are the next two most common picks to advance out of the first round in 2012. Interestingly, each of last year’s top three first round picks found their way to the Championship on at least one entry. Not so for Swamplandia!, whose early enthusiasm wanes quickly. No book in 2011 or 2012 sees its support drop so precipitously. Swamplandia! loses at least half its support each round, culminating in zero votes to be Champion.
In TOB 2011, none of the five closest first round matchups were more lopsided than 66% vs. 33% (and only Next vs. So Much For That was even that lopsided). This year by contrast, the least lopsided match (State of Wonder vs. The Sisters Brothers) has a 66% vs. 33% split among voters. Despite all the discussion (including by me) of how hard it will be to predict outcomes, everyone seems to be coalescing around first round winners.
These lopsided results are also reflected in the fact that not a single entrant believes Green Girl will make it past the second round. No book had such a poor showing among contest entries in 2011. Two more 2012 contenders (The Stranger’s Child and The Cat’s Table) join Green Girl in managing what no 2011 contender did: All are absent from the Zombie Round (and, as a necessary consequence, also receive no votes as either Finalists or Champion).
2012 is also odd in that everyone who picked first round underdog State of Wonder (33%) also penciled in State of Wonder as a second round winner. No books from 2011 held onto every one of their boosters through the first two rounds. (The Stranger’s Child also managed to keep all its first round voters in the second round in 2012, but then its voters disappeared entirely.)
Last year, Room was an overwhelming pick for Zombie status with over 40% of contest entrants tapping Donaghue’s novel to rise from the grave. (A Visit From the Goon Squad was next with about 20% picking it as a Zombie.) The closest any novel in the 2012 TOB comes to inspiring that sort of faith in an afterlife is State of Wonder. 25% of entrants think Patchett’s Amazon adventure (featuring cannibals!) will develop a taste for brains. (The Marriage Plot will be stumbling close behind, if the 24% of entrants who picked it as a Zombie are correct.)
Entrants correctly predicted the eventual champ in 2011 with a 37% plurality foreseeing ultimate success by A Visit From the Goon Squad. The next closest pick for Champ was Skippy Dies (16%). In fact, A Visit From the Goon Squad was the most frequent pick to advance out of each round from the Zombie Round forward (71%, 53%, 37%).
There is no such frontrunner this year.
The Tiger’s Wife and The Art of Fielding are the equally popular picks to win (28% each). They split the lead-up rounds with Obreht’s novel being tagged as most likely to make the semifinals (66% vs. 62%) while Harbach’s book has been voted the most likely to make the Finals (48% vs. 38%).
If entrants are as prescient this year as last, we will see a final bout between The Art of Fielding and The Tiger’s Wife with the winner TBD. Lock your harnesses and prepare for a fun ride.