8 July 14 | Chad W. Post

After two exciting quarterfinal match ups yesterday—with Chile and Mexico moving on to the semifinals—we’re back today with two “impossible to call” matches. First up is Michel Houellebecq and the pride of France facing off against America’s David Foster Wallace as The Map and the Territory takes on The Pale King.

Houellebecq’s trek to the quarterfinals started with a 3-2 victory over Ecuador and Alicia Yánez Cossío’s The Potbellied Virgin. He then rolled Cesar Aira and An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter 4-1.

DFW started with a tough matchup against Portugal’s Gonçalo Tavares and his novel Jerusalem, but the American prevailed 3-2. Then, he took down Belgium’s The Misfortunates by Dimitry Verhulst by a score of 3-1.

Two heavyweights in today’s first quarterfinal . . .

P.T. Smith: USA

The Map and the Territory may play a flawless game, but it’s a familiar one, and like in soccer, those teams are always at risk against ambitious teams that have moments of glory, hoping their inevitable stumbles don’t cost them. The Pale King made me laugh more than anything in a long while, and created full consciousnesses on a single page. There are flaws, yes, but DFW’s writing is to an unfinished book as Tim Howard is the U.S. defense, and The Pale King holds on. Besides, when, other than WCL and the WC, do I get to root for the U.S. and have it not involve corporate capitalism or the military?

France 0 – USA 1

Lori Feathers: France

The Map and the Territory defeats The Pale King because it contains all the elements of the perfect novel: big ideas (art, death, capitalism), a great narrative with good pacing (this is where Houellebecq smokes DFW), and Houellebecq’s expressive (sometimes great) writing style. Not to mention, inventing his own brutal murder (so few remaining body parts that they fill only a child’s coffin) is original and ballsy enough to advance beyond the quarterfinals.

France 1 – USA 1

Tom Roberge: France

This match makes you painfully aware of the folly in pitting works of art against each other. If I’m forced to choose a winner, then I give the edge to Houellebecq if only because I enjoyed reading The Map and the Territory more, and pure and simple pleasure has to count for something.

France 2 – USA 1

Scott Esposito: France

The Pale King isn’t even actually a book after all . . .

France 3 – USA 1

Lance Edmonds: USA

By a mile.

France 3 – USA 2

Will Evans: USA

How funny to have two powerhouse novels by two brilliant authors who feature caricatures of themselves as characters in these two sloppy but brilliant novels. I preferred The Pale King but it came down to a shoot out for me.

France 3 – USA 3

Ryan Ries: USA

The Map and the Territory is a dark (and darkly funny) novel about death and art, a work that might be deemed a masterpiece if its author hadn’t already written one. The Pale King is shaggy, of course, disjointed and overlong too, but it also contains a few dazzling passages that make your heart ache in recognition of the so-called “human condition.” In a close match, it is these moments of transcendence, despite a consistent and accomplished effort from France, that push USA through to the semifinals.

France 3 – USA 4

And the US World Cup of Literature representative does what the US Men’s National Team just simply can’t: move on to the semifinals where The Pale King will face off against Mexico and Faces in the Crowd.


Did The Pale King Deserve to Make it to the Semifinals?


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