THE TOURNAMENT: A Novel of the 20th Century

John Clarke, Author . Hyperion/Theia $19.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4013-0092-0

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.)

Reviewed on: 08/04/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-1-877008-37-5
Open Ebook - 153 pages - 978-0-316-33051-0
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