A book’s impact has as much to do with where the reader is in her life as it does with the innate qualities of the work
#LitBeat: Literary Death Match LA
“Buy books so the world will be a better place and everyone can be smart and rich and have sex in more comfortable ways,” Todd Zuniga. This is one of the joys of Literary Death Match. Zuniga has found a way to expose people to literary journals, and taken something that we love to do as a solitary act into an arena of mayhem.
Literary Death Match brings together four authors to read before a panel of three all-star judges. After each pair of readers, the judges take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary — in the categories of literary merit, performance and intangibles —then select their favorite to advance to the finals. The two finalists compete in the LDM finale, which mixes in the show’s literary sensibility for an absurd and comical climax to determine who takes home LDM gold.
There was an extra twist in the Los Angeles April 20th LDM; it was the ‘Made for TV version’ meaning it was cut down in length by half. Each author only read for 3 ½ minutes, and each was acting as battle champion for a lit mag or journal.
In a strange strange coincidence, the first round featured two separate cocaine themed pieces. Tom Bissel, author of Magic Hours and champion for ZYZZYVA, went head-to-head with Rare Bird Lit's Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight.
Bissell read first and his piece included the actual scientific breakdown of an illegal substance; 90% laxative 9% amphetamine, and1% cocaine.
Next up, Stahl proceeded to storm through a piece about inserting a cocaine straw into some woman’s “weirdly hot baby smooth ass cheeks.”
The judges, Scott Gimple, Oriana Small (AKA Ashley Blue), and Richard Lange, were impressed. Providing her commentary on Bissell’s piece, Small stated that she really felt the part about the laxatives,and that she wanted to “run into the bathroom right then and there.” Lange stated that if Stahl wrote War and Peace he would’ve read it but that he never wanted to have sex again. They declared Stahl the night’s first finalist.
Lee read from Drifting House, about a mother going to work on her child with a saw. “The sound of her breath an underwater sound.” And Groff read about a coxswain doing a mediocre-to-insulting job of deflowering a mild mannered behemoth named Beth. “Sixty beats per minute thrusts.”
When the judges evaluated the second round they had a lot to say. Lee impressed Small with her “spa voice” which Small said was reminiscent, somehow, of soothing Eucalyptus. Groff gave Lange a renewed hope of eventually having sex again. Ultimately the judges decided that Lee would be the night’s second finalist.
The finale involved three volunteers from the crowd to aid the proceedings: two as helpers to the finalists, one to display the names of famous authors written in Cyrillic. The finalists shouted out their best guesses. It was Lee who clinched the victory and won the Literary Death Match crown. When asked how she felt to be crowned the winner Lee stated, “I intended to lose. This is a nice surprise.”
[Photo via Literary Death Match]
Sometimes I just want to read a book from beginning to end as quickly as possible. Arcadia was perfect for this venture, both because I was immediately in love with it, and because the book itself is about experiences that wrap around you until the outside world fades away.
Tuesday New Release Day!
Marilynne Robinson! Lauren Groff! Heidi Julavits! Nick Arvin! John Leonard! It’s like someone sat around and thought, Man, what would brighten up The Millions’ Tuesday audience? Oh, I know. These great writers.