Literary Death Match: PtldME3

Thank you, Adrian Todd Zuniga, for bringing LDM to PtldME for the third time. And for doing it now. I really needed that – it’s been a bad October.

[irrelevant rant] Everything broke this month: my phone/internet connection (leading to a missed package delivery); my cat (leading to $189 in tests that showed that even at age 19 she’s not quite done yet, even if she can’t walk straight, as long as she can jump up on the bed and the couch and me and if we can just get more methimazole into her we might plump up that hyperthyroid post-apocalyptic starvation look); the government (don’t get me started; I’m not even able to do my evening soak in the Chris Hayes/Rachel Maddow Liberal Hot Tub of Consensus every night [except for Click-3 and the ten minutes around the toss] because I get too angry at what’s going on); and me (I am just not going to get mathematical induction this time around, and this breaks my heart). And then there’s the real stuff, but I can’t talk about that publicly.[/irrelevant rant]

Of all the participants last night, I only knew of Bill Roorbach, having just read (and very much enjoyed) his most recent novel, Life Among Giants. However: After one change of seats (I just sensed that the first seat I picked wasn’t the right one), I ended up next to the parents of Jessica Anthony, another contestant, and author of The Convalescent, which McSweeney’s calls “the story of a small, bearded man selling meat out of a bus parked next to a stream in suburban Virginia . . . and also, somehow, the story of ten thousand years of Hungarian history.” Hot damn, add that puppy to my read list, especially since Jessica’s read was a hilarious bawdy space romp. And educational: I never knew butternut squash was anything but a gourd.

Also contenting: Crash Barry carried a suitcase lettered “Sex, Drugs & Blueberries” (the title of his first book) and passed a sprig of marijuana around the room show-and-tell style (it somehow disappeared, hmmmm…) in honor of his upcoming book Marijuana Valley, Maine: a true story (Crash is a “card-carrying medical marijuana patient” so it’s legal). Let me just say this: marijuana’s a lot stinkier than it was in the 70s. And that’s before it’s lit. Rounding out the foursome: Mira Ptacin, who read her entry from Goodbye to all That, a collection of essays about writers who got the hell out of New York and moved to places like Peaks Island, Maine, as any sensible person would.

The judges: Joshua Bodwell of MWPA focused on literary merit; director Sean Mewshaw critiqued performance, and artist Chelsea H. B. DeLorme handled intangibles. If you’ve ever been to an LDM, you know those category names are illusory. Judges’ critiques included notes about bandaids, American Girl dolls, and what it means when a woman wears a dress with hearts on it, or a velvet blazer that matches the one worn by the host.

It seems the nerf darts have been discontinued, so time limits were announced by bell-ringing and threats of hugs. I was seriously disappointed that no hugging commenced, as every reader went over her allotted seven minutes. Not that time limits mattered; everyone would’ve been happy if they’d each read twice that long. I just wanted to see what it’d be like to have a bunch of people hug a reader-in-progress. I guess we’re too shy around here; it is New England, after all, though most of us come from somewhere else these days.

As it happened, Bill and Jessica ended up in the final round. I’d started out rooting for Bill, but you can’t sit next to a contestant’s parents and not feel some degree of kinship, so I would’ve been happy whoever won. In a highly intense game of Lone Star Lit, they and a couple of volunteer team members had to figure out to which top-ranked book a one-star Amazon review referred. I love those reviews; Least Helpful is on my Cool Sites page, in fact, though lately they’ve been featuring more product than book reviews. It’s always hilarious to discover people who think Dr. Seuss is liberal propaganda (though I suppose it is) and Jane Eyre is boring (I’ll admit, I’d always assumed it was, until I actually read it). I think ATZ was disappointed that the crowd wasn’t making more noise, but we were concentrating – it was hard!

In the end, Bill won, but that wasn’t really the point, was it. Everyone had a blast, and I found out about a whole new bunch of local writers. The only down side was trying to explain what was going on to curious passers-by while the entrance line stretched out the entrance down the sidewalk (yes, it’s that popular). There’s just no quick way to accurately convey just what goes on at these things. Or how much fun it is.

Maybe that’s the appeal. LDM: label-resistant. Coming soon to somewhere near you. The perfect way to recharge the batteries when you’ve been ashened and sobered by your lonesome October.

Literary Death Match: PortlandME, Ep. 2

Take one part literary reading, two parts cheesefest, generous splashes of quiz show and wrestling match, suffuse with humor, spread on local writers/performers, then blend that concoction into the population of a tiny city always overshadowed by its more popular west-coast twin in the mixing bowl that is the Space Gallery, and you’ve got Literary Death Match, Portland (ME), Ep. 2 from May 10.

The specifics are available on the LDM Journal so I won’t bore with links and biographies. LDM is anything but boring. Even if you have no interest in “Literature” it’s fun. After all, out of an hour and a half, only 28 minutes is actual reading; the rest is hilarious commentary that manages to combine roast and feedback (Ron Currie, Jr.’s bicep vein was a major factor, as were diaphragms).

Zin commented on Ep. 1 back in October, but why should Zin have all the fun (not to mention, Zin has declared Sunday with Zin is on hiatus for the duration of Food Network Star, but that’s another issue). Ep. 2 was just as good, even if my comments are not as, um, colorful. Lewis Robinson came away with the Title of LDM Champion.

LDM is a lot of fun, but they respect literature (come on, Pulitzer Prize Pictionary?). I’m all for whatever makes reading more accessible. And they’re everywhere, including Iceland, so they’ve probably been in your neck of the woods. They made a TV pilot last December, which, hey, I’d subscribe to HBO just for that, and I didn’t subscribe for Aaron Sorkin (though it was close), so that tells you something.

Sunday with Zin: Literary Death Match Portland (ME), Ep. 1

October 15, 2012 — In a lit-brilliant debut at One Longfellow Square in Portland (Literary Death Match’s 45th city!), it was Lily King who outdueled poet Gibson Fay-LeBlanc in a wild game of Author Word Jumble that saw King win by a narrow margin of 1.2 seconds to win her the LDM Portland (ME), Ep. 1 crown.

Hello I am Zin and did I ever have fun at the first-ever Literary Death Match in Portland (ME)!

Do not confuse LDMs with your routine reading! Yes, there is reading: four local authors read! And to keep them within the time limit, they are shot with nerf disks every 30 seconds starting at 7 minutes! And in the second round they must play a game! Do you see what I mean that it is not your typical reading?

But as I said, there is reading! Yes, at LDM-Portland (ME) Ep.1, Monica Wood (remember Monica from Ernie’s Ark?) read an excerpt from When We Were The Kennedys so I was cheering for her!

It was also especially good to hear Sarah Braunstein read her Barack Obama FanFic explaining his poor performance in the first debate (you see, back when he was a child in Hawaii, there was this little girl he used to hula-hoop with… even Presidents get nostalgic, be it ever so ill-timed!) – and you can read it yourself at the Good Men Project! Or listen to it FREE on iTunes!

But the semi-finals went down to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc for his hockey poetry because, well, who can resist even the idea of hockey poetry, and Lily King with a mouse penis (nothing can top a mouse penis) and a round of Author Jumbles, from Nin and Poe to Asimov and Huxley!

Would YOU have recognized BLUME (as in Judy) in time?

Would YOU have recognized BLUME (as in Judy) in time?

And congratulations to Lily King, winner of LDM-Portland (ME) Ep.1!

I have known about LDM for a while but never really paid attention: I was always intimidated by Todd Zuniga and Opium Magazine (it is one of those impossibly cool litmags) so I put the LDMs in the category of “things I am not cool enough to appreciate.” But my blog buddy Stan (hello, Stan!) sent me an email to tell me LDM was coming up here! He has been to the ones in Boston and loves them! So I went to the LDM and either I am cooler than I thought, or Todd is not that cool – or maybe he is so cool, he is willing to do things accessible to the un-cool! As it happens, he is completely cool, and also very nice, posting pictures of the Portland match even as he was racing to London! He is nothing like I expected, he is very goofy and fun and easygoing!

What is Literary Death Match? It is a… literary comedy variety show? Part WWE, part game show, part standup, part celebrity roast, part community theatre? I do not know how to describe it, but fortunately I do not have to, you can see a speed preview on Youtube, or for that matter, you can watch dozens of clips from past matches, or listen to an entire LDM on iTunes!

But you should really go! They are all over the place, in cities of course like London and New York and Chicago and LA and Beijing (Beijing? Yes, and Shanghai!) but also giving local writers a chance to shine in less expected places like Kansas City and Tulsa and Iowa City and Raleigh and Vilnius! Yes, a Lithuanian LDM! That is reason itself to go when they come to your neck of the woods, to support something so cool! Todd described the project as a “gateway drug” for those who might not know where to start reading!

Check the schedule at the LDM website to see where they are, or sign up for the newsletter or Twitter feed to see when they are coming to your area! Or even email them and ask them to come, that is how they ended up in Portland!

Past winners include writers we have talked about on these very pages, including Roxane Gay, Baratunde Thurston, Etgar Keret, Andrew Kaufman, Elissa Schappel, and Amber Sparks. And the judges are from all manner of disciplines, people like Jeffrey Eugenides, Tig Notaro, Toure, Lisa Loeb, Chuck Palahniuk (you knew he had to be in the mix somewhere, right?), W. Kamau Bell, and Amber Tamblyn.

You want to go, you do, trust me!