[Editor’s note: If your March Madness bracket got busted, never fear! You can now redeem yourself with our Fantasy Blog Draft Bracket! Starting June 11, our completed teams will be facing off against each other, with reader votes on Facebook determining the winners. Until then, you can pick your winners here. We’ll score your picks at the end of the tournament and one lucky winner will receive a subscription to the print magazine and one of our handsome t-shirts. So get guessing!]
Three’s company! The Ploughshares Fantasy Blog Draft Managers will add a third member to their teams today, but this round they are responsible not only for picking their “players,” but also the position that person will play. If Round 2 was, in manager Michael Nye’s words, “like giving a starving man a menu,” then this round is like giving that man a fully equipped kitchen with a pantry full of every food imaginable—the managers can mix and match whatever they want if they feel comfortable with that responsibility, and I’m certain we’ll get some unusual flavors this round.
Let’s see what kind of fusion the managers got up to!
Editor: Dave Eggers
Fiction Writer: William Faulkner
Michael Nye has been on the ball with his picks the past two rounds. After two rounds of ordered picks, we’re letting the managers make their picks first come first served, and Nye has gotten his in quickly. Clearly, his war room had someone at the top of the draft board they wanted to take. Let’s see who it was.
With the thirteenth pick, The Holden Caulbabies have selected Roxane Gay in the position of Cultural Critic.
Here’s Nye on the selection:
I’m not sure there is another writer in the Interwebs who is more everywhere: The Rumpus, HTML Giant, New York Times, Salon, Slate, you name it, Roxane has written there. No one else responds to books, film, and culture in the modern age with such wit, insight, grace, and intelligence. Given that she, like all other Holden Caulbabies, perform in other genres (note her books Ayiti and her BASS story “North County”) she’s a perfect fit for our group of misfits.
While the Fantasy Blog Draft is open to all eras, having a Twitter following probably won’t hurt, and Gay has the largest Twitter following of any pick taken so far. She’s also tasked—along with Dave Eggers—with balancing a Nobel Laureate, and Gay’s incisive understanding of criticism proves that she will no doubt be up to the task.
Editor: Robert Silvers
Fiction Writer: Donald Barthelme
With the fourteenth pick, Leave it to Cheever takes Iris Murdoch as a Philosopher.
Justin Alvarez explains the team’s decision:
Though best known as a novelist, Dame Murdoch was a notable philosopher and a university lecturer in the subject at Oxford. However, don’t think her moral questions didn’t cross over to her fiction (no matter how often she insisted her novels were not “philosophical”); her impressive body of work took on some of our most profound moral questions: redemption, good vs. evil, and the existence of God. To top, Murdoch wasn’t heavy-handed; her work was playful, however serious, absurd, while logical.
For Murdoch, our existence was meant to be questioned, and all teams require this type of focus: how can we ever dream of moving forward if we never focus on the present?
A sound pick for a team of reliable and multifaceted players. Murdoch is sure to partner Silvers and Barthelme with an equally serious, considerate, and concerned member of the opposite sex; Barthelme’s levity may be a valuable tool for this team in competition. We’ll have to see how Leave it to Cheever picks in the second half of the draft.
Editor: George Plimpton
Fiction Writer: Kurt Vonnegut
With the fifteenth pick, The Mighty Duck Palahniuks selects Emily Dickinson as an Events Coverage writer.
Benjamin Samuel justifies this creative juxtaposition:
Everyone knows that poets can party. Wallace Stevens was the king of the keg stand, Robert Frost practically invented planking, and Emily Dickinson…well she didn’t get out that much. But that’s what makes her the ideal blogger for events coverage. Emily will bring objectivity, a fascination for society, and a skepticism that’s missing from party reportage. Who needs another reformed b-boy, one time raver, nee club kid telling you what’s cool? Beyond the velvet ropes of Manhattan’s most exclusive events will be Emily Dickinson, Instagramming the elite and taking names. “I’m nobody. Who are you?” indeed.
Now we’re getting into the Fantasy Blog Draft! Nobody believed in Dickinson at first, and it’s typical Plimpton style to send her out into a bold new genre, ready to exercise her poetic chops at all sorts of events. The Mighty Ducks will definitely have their tongue planted firmly in cheek as we head into the matchups.
Editor: John Martin
Fiction Writer: Boris Vian
With the sixteenth pick, What the Chuckin’ Buk?! takes Dorothy Parker as a Social Media Director.
Jordan Kushins on her selection:
The digital age has introduced an entirely new genre of mini-manifestos, status updates, and 140-character squibs, and while everyone, it seems, has something to say, it takes a quick, articulate intellect to truly master the difficult art of these shortest of forms. Dorothy Parker’s incomparable way with words blazed bright in many incarnations: she was an ace at poetry, short stories, plays, screenwriting, and reviews; she held court with the literary heavy-hitters of her day at the Algonquin Round Table, where the sparkling one-liners were served aloud; and she was an activist for causes she believed in, unafraid to let her voice be heard. Under her guidance, a simple Twitter account would become a must-read commentary in real time, a rapid-fire feed featuring bold ideas, and a fascinating glimpse at the inner-workings of a beautiful mind. It was hundreds of years ago that William Shakespeare wrote that “brevity is the soul of wit”: Parker embodied the best of all three attributes.
The managers are on a spree of female players—Gay, Murdoch, Dickinson, and now Parker. Murdoch and Dickinson might be the types to eschew Twitter, but I imagine that Dorothy Parker would have her hands full with Roxane Gay: that would be an interesting matchup should What the Chuckin’ Buk?! and The Holden Caulbabies both advance to the finals.
Editor: Toni Morrison
Fiction Writer: Ben Lerner
With the seventeenth pick, Buckle Your Corn Belts has chosen Jeffrey Eugenides as a Gossip Columnist:
Here are Marty Kezon and Joumana Khatib on their selection:
Our Third Round pick is Jeffrey Eugenides (a native Detroiter), who will be our regular Gossip Columnist. Eugenides put his insider-knowledge on display in the 2011 novel The Marriage Plot, his version of the campus tell-all based on Brown’s English department in the 80s. Eugenides knows how to deliver the juice without sinking to mere titillation. In The Virgin Suicides, he narrated the voice of a community struggling between fascination and understanding, and in Middlesex, he once more demonstrated his desire to challenge and sympathize. We think Eugenides will be invaluable to our team with his innate curiosity, his intellect, and his deep interest in the reader. (Oh, and we like that he doesn’t shy away from difficult stories.)
Another creative use of a major talent. As with Dickinson, Eugenides’ lyrical talents will be put to the test with a different genre, but the managers have nicely outlined his suitability for this new test. The Corn Belters may have unknowingly limited their talent pool with their draft strategy; they’ve taken three contemporary authors and will have to dig deep in later rounds to find the best of Midwestern America.
Editor: Max Perkins
Fiction Writer: Virginia Woolf
Vonnegut to the Chopper! with the eighteenth pick selects Cheryl Strayed as an Advice Columnist:
Cheryl Strayed, of Dear Sugar fame, gave new life to the advice column. Her columns (really, they should be called micro-essays) make poor Dear Abby look like that prude-n-proper second cousin on your father’s side who refuses to dance with the boys at your uncle’s wedding because they might “get too handsy.” Strayed, on the other hand, is all about getting down to the nitty gritty truth of a situation. She manages to make even the most uniquely personal issue relatable to Persons A, B, and C, while remaining true to the situation and being bone-deep honest. This is brave stuff. Cheryl Strayed belongs on team Vonnegut to the Chopper! because she’s done the near-impossible; she’s turned the advice column into literature.
Even Alice Munro has recognized Strayed’s literary talents. Strong pick here. With over 18,000 followers, she has become the most followed Fantasy Blog Draft selection. (We lack a rubric with which to retroactively distribute followers to writers from previous eras [a poet would probably own this, right?]; still, Twitter presence must mean something in this game, no?)
There are almost too many interesting possibilities left on the board for the Commissioner to even wrap his brain about who to point out; I’ll try my best to balance between obvious natural pairings and creative literary McFlurries. These are the best writers left on the draft board:
5. Marco Polo, Travel Writer. The original rucksack-toting, East-Asia-bound, smelly European hippy. Now let’s send him to Thailand for the Full Moon Fest and see how he fares.
4. Gay Talese, Sports Writer. Talese helped expand the bounds of creative nonfiction back in the 60s with his New Journalism profiles of Sinatra and DiMaggio as well as bridge workers in New York City. His recent profile of Yankees manager Joe Girardi shows that he’s still got the goods; Talese would bring highlight-reel writings to any team as a sports writer.
3. Marcel Proust, Food Columnist. We know about one life-changing bite of madeleine; now imagine what he could do with a perfectly fried samosa, peppered pork belly, or wonderfully chargrilled Brussels sprouts. We might run the longest food columns ever written, but every bite would be nothing short of sublime. In Search of Lost Calories—there’s our column title.
2. Barbara Tuchman, Historian. Tuchman is author of some of the most readable tomes of history ever written. She brings characters (both famous and unknown) to life better than some acclaimed fiction writers. I’d like to see where the editors of the Fantasy Blogs would direct her powers of inquiry and examination.
1. James Joyce, Sex Columnist. Joyce is here again at the top of the list, this time for his infamous letters home. There’s nothing difficult and impenetrable about this prose, for better or worse.
Round Six is the next Wildcard round, and the above pairings are now off the board! The managers will have to be more creative than the commissioner if they hope to succeed in this competition.
Check back in two weeks from now to see whom the managers select as nonfiction writers.