The makings of Literary Death Match are simple enough: various cities, authors, a microphone, a smartass panel of judges and an audience. Carefully formulated from an array of influences—including Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam, medieval jousting competitions, vaudeville, AM radio, stand-up and campfire tales—Literary Death Match makes literature come alive. It has the unique ability to draw hermits from their dark cellars while mobilizing whole hipster platoons to its purpose. HEY, LET’S LISTEN TO THIS STORY TOGETHER!, it says. How cute is that?
LDM began when its creator, Todd Zuniga, thought that traditional readings weren’t sexy enough. He also got lonely at night spooning books, and thought it might be nice for us all to spoon books simultaneously. He then came up with this idea for writers, ranging from the famously blooming to the emergently budding, to go head-to-head in slam-style competition before some savvy judges who rate them on literary merit, performative wiles and possibly whether or not their outfits are too matchy-matchy. The best part is the finale, in which the competitors may go off book and spar with whatever weird skills/tools/quips/laser-tag guns they have in their personal arsenals. It gets pretty serious up there. Let’s just say people have lost pages.
The 2011 season of LDM kicks off in Boston, adjudicated by these dynamos three: super-local rock darling Sarah Borges, who just wants to make people dance; Grub Street’s Chris Castellani, who just wants to teach people how to write so they don’t make asses of themselves; and comedian of the year Mehran Khaghani, who just wants to make people laugh until they make a little poop.
As if the panel won’t be performance heavy enough, those slated to be on the mic for the evening have the combined whimsy and raw magnetism of a bowling birthday party. Heidi Pitlor, for example, is used to being on the other side of the table as editor of The Best American Short Stories, but will be a treat for her impeccable hair and her flair for capturing family drama. Myfanwy Collins has worked for Cirque de Soleil and is kind of Canadian. She also happens to be a very smart literary critic traipsing around the blogosphere. Also, there’s Christopher Monks, a wickedly funny guy trapped in a frantic loop of repeating mundane tasks and then tweeting all about them.
Literary Death Match is intended to be a peaceable yet radical event. The combination of performance and text, of the banal and the divine, the visceral and the somniloquent, the anthropological and the dramatic, the puppies and the kitties, makes this an event for everyone. And when the audience goes home that night, after seeing what has transpired onstage, they will be able to bring new knowledge and tenderness to their own bookshelves. Literary Death Match is hardcover love with a paperback touch.
LITERARY DEATH MATCH
569 MASS. AVE.,
8PM/21+/$10, $5 STUDENTS