Titus Blindfolded — Mervyn Peake


Interference — Nigel Cooke


Interference, 2011 by Nigel Cooke (b. 1973)

The 2020 Tournament of Zeitgeisty Writers

Maybe you’re bored, maybe you’re stuck inside, missing NCAA March Madness, watching the world’s madness through a screen. Maybe this will be a diversion. (I’m hoping it’s a diversion for me.)

I came up with a list of 64 writers that have written novels or stories that either anticipate, reflect, or otherwise describe our zeitgeist. (I realize now that I’ve forgotten a bunch, but, hey.) After a certain point, there wasn’t much thought put into seeding the tournament.

I’ll be doing running polls on Twitter for the next few days, starting today, with brackets 1-4 launching today.

Here are the brackets for Round 1:

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“Herman Melville” — W.H. Auden

“Herman Melville”


W.H. Auden

Towards the end he sailed into an extraordinary mildness,
And anchored in his home and reached his wife
And rode within the harbour of her hand,
And went each morning to an office
As though his occupation were another island.

Goodness existed: that was the new knowledge.
His terror had to blow itself quite out
To let him see it; but it was the gale had blown him
Past the Cape Horn of sensible success
Which cries: “This rock is Eden. Shipwreck here.”

But deafened him with thunder and confused with lightning:
–The maniac hero hunting like a jewel
The rare ambiguous monster that had maimed his sex,
The unexplained survivor breaking off the nightmare–
All that was intricate and false; the truth was simple.

Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats at our own table,
And we are introduced to Goodness every day,
Even in drawing-rooms among a crowd of faults;
He has a name like Billy and is almost perfect,
But wears a stammer like a decoration:

And every time they meet the same thing has to happen;
It is the Evil that is helpless like a lover
And has to pick a quarrel and succeeds,
And both are openly destroyed before our eyes.

For now he was awake and knew
No one is ever spared except in dreams;
But there was something else the nightmare had distorted–
Even the punishment was human and a form of love:
The howling storm had been his father’s presence
And all the time he had been carried on his father’s breast.

Who now had set him gently down and left him.
He stood upon the narrow balcony and listened:
And all the stars above him sang as in his childhood
“All, all is vanity,” but it was not the same;
For now the words descended like the calm of mountains–
–Nathaniel had been shy because his love was selfish–
Reborn, he cried in exultation and surrender
“The Godhead is broken like bread. We are the pieces.”

And sat down at his desk and wrote a story.

Wild Sunflowers — Denis Sarazhin 


Wild Sunflowers, 2015 by Denis Sarazhin (b. 1982)

Who Are We Now? — Gregory Ferrand


Who Are We Now?, 2017 by Gregory Ferrand (b. 1975)

D’Audieu — Jonathan Leaman


D’Audieu, 2017 by Jonathan Leaman (b. 1954)

Troubadour — Remedios Varo


Troubadour, 1959 by Remedios Varo (1908-1963)

Butterfly Stories — Falk Gernergross

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Butterfly Stories, 2012 by Falk Gernergross (b. 1973)

Hothouses I — Léon Spilliaert


Hothouses I, 1917 by Léon Spilliaert (1881–1946)

Lytton Strachey. Verso: Crime and Punishment — Duncan Grant

Lytton Strachey. Verso: Crime and Punishment c.1909 by Duncan Grant 1885-1978

Lytton Strachey. Verso: Crime and Punishment, c. 1909 by Duncan Grant (1885–1978)

Sugar and Milk — Chitra Ganesh


Sugar and Milk, from Her Nuclear Waters by Chitra Ganesh (b. 1975)

Two Studies for Steerpike — Mervyn Peake


Four Friends — Salman Toor


Four Friends, 2019 by Salman Toor (b. 1983)

Untitled (Orange Pants) — Kerry James Marshall


Untitled (Orange Pants), 2014 by Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955)

The Gift — Victor Castillo


The Gift, 2017 by Victor Castillo (b. 1973)

God Judging Adam — William Blake

God Judging Adam 1795 by William Blake 1757-1827

God Judging Adam, 1795 by William Blake (1757-1827)