(Photo courtesy Kirsten Wendt, AB’81)
How they stacked up
The sound and fury of selecting contest winners.
Announced in the last issue, our “Title Fight” contest asked readers to arrange book spines into a very short story. It seemed to strike a chord. As entries began hitting the Magazine’s in-box in July, interactive content editor Joy Olivia Miller posted them—along with any notes—on our Facebook page, where all the entries can still be viewed. When the dust and attachments had settled on deadline day, we had 98 entries, the most for any Magazine contest since 2006, when readers penned 409 UChicago haiku. This time we heard from 80 readers who piled up 743 unique books. Some titles made multiple appearances, albeit in different editions. Leading the way with four uses each were As I Lay Dying and Things Fall Apart. Also popular, The Sound and the Fury and Brave New World popped up three times each. Of 26 titles making two appearances, one (The Man without Qualities) appeared twice in the same entry, while the sleeper repeat was just that: Half-Asleep in Frog Pajamas. Three rounds of voting by the Magazine staff yielded a short list of 12. Judging was no easy task—we found a lot to like throughout the field. In some cases we admired a particular couplet. For instance, Donald E. Gowan, PhD’64, began deliciously: “Started Early, Took My Dog / Around the World on a Bicycle.” But we were disappointed when the dog sank out of sight. We enjoyed the stories that came with props, like that shown above, from Kirsten Wendt, AB’81, which gets an honorable mention (Cats Cats Cats / Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight / West with the Night / Into Thin Air / East of the Sun and West of the Moon / Come to the City / Where Angels Fear to Tread / The Places in Between / The Lost Continent / Where the Wild Things Are / The Dragons of Eden / The Snow Leopard). And we bowed to the efforts of John Fischer, AB’13, who artfully ordered 39 titles, working in at least one alumni book, Cosmos by Carl Sagan, AB’54, SB’55, SM’56, PhD’60. In the end, economy of storytelling and humor turned out to be most prized by the judges. The humor, both light and dark, was in ample supply, the economy less so—perhaps surprising, given the genre’s towering limitations. For the winning entries and other honorable mentions, see “Top Shelf.” Our gratitude to the University of Chicago Press for providing the prizes, and thanks to everyone who played with their books.