The Madness 2023

Madness in great ones must not unwatched go. – William Shakespeare

No worries Willie Shakes…we’ll be watching. My long weekend is all planned out. Beginning Thursday afternoon the annual hoops smorgasbord will take up the majority of many fans’ time for four straight days…and that’s just the appetizer. The 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament will conclude on April 3 when new (maybe) National Champions are crowned. What’s odd about March Madness is that the buzz & anticipation peaks at the beginning and decreases as it moves forward. Right now more than five dozen fan bases in every nook & cranny of the country are happy because their team has a shot at the title, but by the end of the month only four will be left standing. Even from a casual fan’s perspective…if you don’t happen to have a dog in the fight…the coolest part of the journey is the opening weekend, which consists of wall-to-wall basketball – 48 games in four days.

You may notice that I do not speak of the “First” Four play-in games taking place on Tuesday & Wednesday night. Perhaps that is unfair, but I am a traditionalist who believes the tournament was perfect with 64 teams and rarely expects much from the superfluous four teams added to the field. It should also be noted that the bracket you see here is my one & only. While I have entered into multiple online contests (because why not) my bracket is the same in every one. I do not have the fortitude or inclination to keep track of multiple entries. I do not have any money invested in these picks because quite honestly I am not that good at prognostication. I am just a regular dude with no special knowledge or insight. I don’t do research or study any kind of data. It takes me about five minutes to fill out my bracket. I have learned thru the years not to go too crazy with first round upsets, but my definition of a true upset might differ from yours. #9 over #8 isn’t a big deal. A 10 seed over a 7 is a mild upset at best. Beyond that and you have the right to get excited.

East

You’ll see alot of chalk with two exceptions. I like the Catamounts of Vermont out of the American East Conference to not only upset #2 Marquette in Round 1, but to make it to the Sweet 16. In the second round they’ll be facing the USC Trojans, who I believe will beat the vaunted Michigan St. Spartans, a team that has played in seven Final Fours in this century alone. I foresee bluebloods Duke & Kentucky surviving the first round, but suffering surprising losses in Round 2. When it’s all said & done I think it’ll be the top seeded Purdue Boilermakers getting past Kansas St. in the Elite Eight. Center Zach Edey, at 7ft.4, is a problem for any opponent.

West

There are some intriguing possibilities in this region, and it could get a little wacky. I am picking the VCU Rams, who made it all the way to the Final Four back in 2011, to beat St. Mary’s in a classic 5/12 upset. They’ll catch a break in the second round because I like the Iona Gaels, coached by the once disgraced Rick Pitino, to beat the 4 seed UConn Huskies. VCU will run into Kansas in the Sweet 16 though, and it won’t end well for them. The 8/9 matchup should be fun, and I like Arkansas to prevail. You’ll probably be surprised to see that I’ve chosen the TCU Horned Frogs to make it to the regional final, a path that includes upsetting Gonzaga in Round 2 and UCLA in the Sweet 16. Nobody is making it past the defending champion Jayhawks though.

Midwest

First off, I don’t believe all that much in the top seeded Houston Cougars. They’ll win easily in the first round, but I’m looking at the Auburn Tigers to pull off an upset after they get past Iowa in Round 1. A similar fate awaits the Miami Hurricanes. Penn St. is the big surprise in this region. I like them to make it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Indiana. The Hoosiers might be looking at their first Final Four appearance in over two decades.

South

My West Virginia Mountaineers open the first round Thursday afternoon, and I think they’ll win. However, I would be shocked if WVU stays within ten points of Alabama in Round 2. I’m predicting a pretty big upset with 11th seeded Furman over #4 Virginia, but don’t get too excited Paladin fans…it is likely your team doesn’t make it past the second round. A lot of pundits question whether NC St. even belongs in the tournament, but I think that’ll motivate them to score a first round upset before losing in Round 2. I really like the Baylor Bears to make it out of the region by winning a close one over ‘Bama.

Final Four

That means my Final Four is Purdue vs. Baylor and Kansas vs. Indiana. Nothing too crazy, right?? As much as it pains me to say it, I believe we might end up with repeat champions as the Jayhawks cut down the nets for the fifth time in their history, tying the program with Duke and Indiana.

TOP 100 BOOKS OF ALL TIME (ALLEGEDLY, BUT PROBABLY NOT) – The Conclusion

If you’re late to the party…no worries. Just go here, here, and here to catch up, then rejoin us right here.

I’ve done the math. Of the hundred books on this list there are 38 that I have read or want to read eventually. There are 32 that I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever. And most interesting…atleast to me…is that there are 33 books, or about 1/3 of a list of ostensibly greatest of all time, that I’ve never heard of in my half century on the planet. Now, I’ve never claimed to be a top flight intellectual. I’m just a middle class dude in Appalachia with a college education that’s never done me much good, who has made more than enough poor choices and run into my fair share of misfortune. To paraphrase Marlon Brando, I could’ve been a contender…I could’ve been somebody. What might have been will haunt me til my dying day. However, having said all of that, I have a difficult time believing that a ranking like this has nearly three dozen books totally unknown to me.

76 The Hobbit / JRR Tolkien

The final installation of this exercise is off to a great start!! I freakin’ love The Hobbit. Pay no attention to the subpar movies and just read the damn book!!

77 The Man Without Qualities / Robert Musil

Two red flags…a “modernist” novel written in Germany (cause we all know how delightfully fun those wacky Germans are). Also, it spans multiple volumes and nearly 2000 pages. No way. Not happening.

78 Tristram Shandy / Laurence Sterne

It is a “autobiography ” of a completely fictional character set in 18th century France. That just doesn’t sound the least bit interesting to me.

79 JR / William Gaddis

Described as a satirical farce in which a Long Island 6th grader gets rich trading penny stocks thru the mail. It’s a huge 700+ page book, but I am intrigued.

80 As I Lay Dying / William Faulkner

More Faulkner. Described as “a grim yet darkly humorous pilgrimage” in which a dead woman’s family sets out to fulfill her dying wish to be buried in her hometown. I think I’ll give it a whirl.

81 Steppenwolf / Hermann Hesse

First things first…yes, the 70’s rock band known for hits like Magic Carpet Ride & Born to Be Wild DID take their name from the book, which is cool. In German a steppe wolf is another name for a grey wolf native to the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water that borders both Russia & Iran. The novel is described as “one man’s spiritual journey towards self-knowledge”, with the framing device of a book within a book. It’s pretty short, and I am inclined to check it out.

82 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Lewis Carroll

Did I read it as a child?? Probably. I feel like I have a basic knowledge of the plot. Should I read it again as an adult?? Would that be weird, given the fact that I don’t have kids of my own??

83 The Name of the Rose / Umberto Eco

An Italian murder mystery published in 1980 when I was 8 years old. I’ve never heard of it, and since it’s around 600 pages the likelihood of me caring enough to read it is doubtful.

84 Republic / Plato

I always get the Greek philosophers mixed up. The author of this book, Plato, learned from Socrates then went on to teach Aristotle. Philosophy. Ethics. Politics. All subjects that interest me in small doses, but if I haven’t read the whole book by now it is unlikely that I will.

85 The Confessions / St. Augustine

Saint Augustine of Hippo was a 4th century philosopher & theologian in Northern Africa. It is an autobiographical story about the author’s troubled youth & his spiritual growth. It’s one of those books that part of me feels like I should read, but I’m not sure if I can persuade myself to do so.

86 Wuthering Heights / Emily Brontë

Much like the Greek philosophers, I tend to get the Brontë sisters confused. Emily wrote this one, which is about love, class warfare, & revenge. I’m not sure it’s my cup o’ tea, but it is rather short so I’ll give it a go someday.

87 If On a Winter’s Night, A Traveler / Italo Calvino

Never heard of it. Weird title. It’s a book about a guy trying to read a book, which is very meta. Absolutely nothing about this revs my engine.

88 The Pale King / David Foster Wallace

Wallace’s story intrigues me, but I think I’ll tackle Infinite Jest and be happy with that. An unfinished novel by definition shouldn’t be put on a pedestal simply due to tragic circumstances. I mean, really…it’s not finished 👀.

89 The Tunnel / William H. Gass

I can tell that the readers responsible for these rankings are young since several books emanate from the 1980’s onward. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. The Tunnel was published in 1995, though I’d never heard of it until now. It sounds…complex, but not in a good way. I believe my time is better spent on other things.

90 A Hero of Our Time / Mikhail Lermontov

How many Russian novelists are there?!?!?!?? Atleast this dude isn’t as verbose as Tolstoy & Dostoevsky, but I’m still not interested.

91 The Aeneid / Virgil

It’s like the RC Cola of epic poems. Let me get thru The Iliad & The Odyssey (maybe) and perhaps I’ll give this one a whirl.

92 A Clockwork Orange / Anthony Burgess

The 1971 Kubrick movie is probably more well-known. I tend to go against the crowd though, so I am more likely to read the book.

93 Kafka on the Shore / Haruki Murakami

I’m a little surprised that Murakami’s more recent IQ84 didn’t make the cut, although it is a much lengthier work. Both books are high on my list, and I’ll get around to them eventually.

94 Nausea / Jean-Paul Sartre

What an odd title for a philosophy book. I am somewhat intrigued that it “comprises the thoughts and subjective experiences of a melancholy and socially isolated intellectual” who is experiencing “growing alienation and disillusionment”. I can’t lie…that speaks to me. I’m tempted to call it a maybe.

95 King Lear / William Shakespeare

I’d have thought that Shakespeare would earn more than two spots on this list. It is one of his best plays though. I studied it in college and have seen stage performances. Trust me though…it’s not for the faint of heart.

96 Beyond Good & Evil / Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche has made his presence known in these rankings. It is short, and I wish I would’ve challenged myself to read it three decades ago because it’s just not something that piques my interest at this stage of my life.

97 The Elementary Particles / Michel Houellebecq

A French novel published in 1998. These are very Millenial-centric rankings. Given the title I assumed it had something to with science, but I’m wrong. Why are so many of the protagonists in these books depressed or otherwise mentally ill?? My life has enough melancholy without reading about sadness for fun.

98 Candide / Voltaire

Here we go again!! The protagonist experiences “slow and painful disillusionment” and “great hardships in the world”. Conversely, I just want to relax, have some lighthearted fun, and laugh a little. Is that too much to ask??

99 Jerusalem / Alan Moore

Don’t let the title fool you…it’s a 2016 novel set in England. How in the hell does a book published less than a decade ago rank as one of the best books of all time?!?!?? That’s dumb.

100 Harry Potter / JK Rowling

As mundane & erudite as these rankings have been I am shocked to see something as mainstream popular as Harry Potter make the list. It’s a pleasant surprise though because they are in fact great books. If you’re one of those people who has only watched the movies, a Christian who thinks Jesus will be mad at you for embracing sorcery, or someone who was older than a teenager when PotterMania was running wild so you think it’s adolescent balderdash, then I urge you to reconsider. It’s a big commitment…seven lengthy books…but worth every second of your time.

Top 100 Books of All Time (Allegedly, But Probably Not) – Part III

Before proceeding you might want to go back and check out Parts 1 & 2.

Tsundoku is a Japanese word that describes the act of acquiring books but letting them pile up in one’s home without actually reading them. I mentioned at the outset that I want to use this project as a jumping off point, because, sadly, I have become much more of a tsundokuist than a true bookworm. Thru the years I have wasted way too much time on social media or watching TV than I have reading, and I want that to change. To be honest I’ve been more amused & dumbfounded by the /lit/ list than anything, but the project has been stimulating and given me a few achievable goals. One of my many flaws is that I lack focus and need to be challenged, even if the provocation comes from within.

51 East of Eden / John Steinbeck

I’ve read some Steinbeck, but not this one. I will though. It is loosely inspired by the Biblical story of Cain & Abel, which sounds very cool.

52 The Savage Detectives / Roberto Bolaño

After reading the description I’m not sure what to think. Apparently there are poets and gangs and pimps. Ehhh. Never say never, but I’m not particularly intrigued. And to be honest, as I move thru this list I am puzzled by the number of allegedly “great” books I’ve never heard about, and all of the great books I know about that are nowhere to be found.

53 Thus Spoke Zarathustra / Friedrich Nietzsche

Philosophical fiction. Okay, that’s a new one. Apparently it’s based on Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion with “a dualistic cosmology of good & evil within the framework of a monotheistic ontology and an eschatology which predicts the ultimate conquest of evil by good, and exalts an uncreated & benevolent deity of wisdom known as its supreme being”. No…just, no.

54 The Count of Monte Cristo / Alexandre Dumas

I find it odd that Dumas’ more famous novel…The Three Musketeers…doesn’t make the cut. I am a chocoholic so I would much rather have a 3 Musketeers bar than a Monte Cristo sandwich (not that I’d turn one of those down though). Wait…we’re talking about books, aren’t we?? Anyway, it’s a revenge adventure set in mid-19th century Europe, and it is over 1000 pages long. Perhaps I’ll persuade myself to try it one day, but it’s not high on my list of priorities.

55 The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald

Okay, now we’re talking. The plot isn’t worthy of the book’s stature amongst The Literati, but Fitzgerald’s prose is delightful to read. I’d actually like to check out his other works based solely on my appreciation of this book.

56 Meditations / Marcus Aurelius

Aurelius was a Roman Emperor and a Stoic, which is all about living an ethical & virtuous life in harmony with nature, or something to that effect. I enjoy reading little snippets of philosophy here & there, but it is unlikely that I’d put forth the effort to read an entire book about it. It is a relatively short one though, so never say never.

57 Hunger / Knut Hamsun

Not to be confused with The Hunger Games, it is the adventure of a starving young man whose sense of reality gives way to delusion in late 19th century Norway. I’ve never heard of it and it doesn’t sound like my cup o’ tea, but it is essentially a long short story, so perhaps one day I’ll get a wild hair & decide to knock it out.

58 Finnegan’s Wake / James Joyce

Joyce is neck & neck with Dostoyevsky at this point. Wake is a notoriously difficult read due to the author’s wacky style & use of language, which I guess is his thing. Personally, I’d like to think that if I ever write a book my aim would be to create something eminently readable that people would enjoy because that’s just how I roll. There’s actually a 2003 parody novel called Gilligan’s Wake that sounds like alot more fun.

59 Heart of Darkness / Joseph Conrad

Did you know that this book inspired the classic 1979 film Apocalypse Now?? That alone makes it worth reading, along with the fact that it’s essentially a longer short story, or a novella if you prefer that terminology. I’ve also heard good things about Conrad’s novel Lord Jim, so perhaps it’ll be a twofer someday.

60 The Magic Mountain / Thomas Mann

No, it’s not about Disney World. It’s actually a German novel set in a mental hospital in the years leading up to World War I. I’ve never heard of it, and though it doesn’t sound totally horrible it’s not something to which I feel drawn.

61 Madame Bovary / Gustave Flaubert

It is essentially the 19th century literary version of a chick flick, but unless Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan are showing up it really doesn’t frost my cupcake.

62 The Crying of Lot 49 / Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon is getting a lot of love from the folks at /lit/, and after reading the description I am inclined to give this one a whirl. Could I become a Pynchon fan?? Maybe.

63 The Waves / Virginia Woolf

It “follows six narrators from childhood through adulthood…concerned with individual consciousness and the ways in which multiple consciousnesses can weave together”. Okay, I’m a bit intrigued. It’s a maybe.

64 Invisible Cities / Italo Calvino

It is written as a conversation between famous explorer Marco Polo and Chinese Emperor Kubla Khan, interspersed with brief poems that are “parables or meditations on culture, language, time, memory, death, and the general nature of human experience”. I’ve never heard of it and it doesn’t necessarily sound like my thing. However, it’s pretty short and I feel like it could be a pleasant surprise.

65 American Psycho / Bret Easton Ellis

Wow…okay…it was written in 1991 when I was in college, making it a “modern classic”. There was a movie adaptation starring Christian Bale that never sounded like my cup o’ tea because I’m not into serial killer stuff. That probably won’t change.

66 The Sun Also Rises / Ernest Hemingway

I am fascinated by Hemingway. The setting is the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain in the early 20th century. I’m in!!

67 Dune / Frank Herbert

I dip my toe in sci-fi, but I am picky. Bleak, post-apocalyptic type stuff usually doesn’t interest me. It has been adapted into films twice, neither of which I’ve seen. It’s likely a no for me.

68 To the Lighthouse / Virginia Woolf

It is described as “a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.” Okay. Maybe, but probably not.

69 The Grapes of Wrath / John Steinbeck

Yes. Absolutely. Someday. I’m all in on Steinbeck. This is an issue of Me vs. My Procrastination.

70 Dead Souls / Nikolai Gogol

More 19th century Russian literature. I’ve never heard of it, and will likely never give it a second thought.

71 Naked Lunch / William Burroughs

Calm down. No one is hanging out at the local diner in the nude. There are laws. At any rate, it’s actually a series of loosely connected, drug induced vignettes. Hey man, it was (almost) the 60s. I guess Burroughs was ahead of his time. I don’t know…maybe.

72 The Trilogy / Henryk Sienkiewicz

Obviously it was written way before films or else it’d have a more specific title. There are actually three books in four volumes…historical fiction centered on 17th century Poland. No thanks. I think I’ll just eat some kielbasa and call it a day.

73 White Noise / Don DeLillo

Racist!! Okay, I’m joking. We all know that Black Noise would definitely get canceled though. Anyway, this book was actually released in 1985. It examines contemporary family life and satirizes academia, all thru the eyes of a college professor who teaches kids about Hitler. A film adaptation starring Adam Driver (aka Kylo Wren) & Don Cheadle was released just last year. I am more inclined to watch the movie first and decide if the book might be worth my time. I know that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be done, but I’m a rebel.

74 Absalom Absalom / William Faulkner

Faulkner is getting some love from the nerds on /lit/. I’ve heard about this book for years. My Bible thumpers know that Absalom was one of King David‘s sons who turned against his father and paid for it with his life. I’m guessing the book’s plot is somehow loosely based on that general concept, and I am willing to eventually confirm that assumption.

75 The Old Man & The Sea / Ernest Hemingway

I’ve read it & it’s fantastic. It is actually a novella, which means it’s longer than a short story but shorter than a novel. I don’t know what the parameters are or who makes the rules.

Please stay tuned for the conclusion of our little project…coming soon!!