The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Saturday night's Literary Death Match (LDM) at Bardot did not end in a bloodbath. Instead, it ended with big laughs, hoots and hollers and a linguistic tongue-twister of a spelling bee. Hosted by Literary Death Match founder Todd Zuniga and the Miami Book Fair International, Literary Death Match proved that literature is not dead and that writers can be super goofy. (Note: No author was metaphorically or literally hurt during Literary Death Match).
The evening started off with four writers: Mat Johnson (author of "Pym"), T.M. Shine (author of "Nothing Happens Until it Happens to You"), Jennifer Hayden (author of the graphic novel "Underwire") and Sandra Beasley (author of the memoir "Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life" and the poetry collection "I Was the Jukebox"). There were two rounds. Each writer was allotted seven minutes to perform their work.
In round one, Johnson and Shine battled each other to the death. Shine read with a back-up chorus. A nice touch, but it wasn't enough. In the end, Shine was left begging for mercy as Johnson, cheered on by the crowed, prevailed with a rambunctious reading of his coming-of-age story that's way too graphic to repeat here.
In round two, Beasley and Hayden. Beasley read three searing poems from her poetry collection "I Was the Jukebox." At several points during her reading, I witnessed the spirits enter Beasley's body. Her voice and head lifted toward the sky. Her arms and hands, too. She captivated the audience. On the other hand, Hayden, with her quiet, no-frills style, won the round with a funny reading and slide show from her graphic novel.
After a timed, 11- minute break, the two winners from each round battled for glory in a literary spelling bee of sorts. The writers had to spell the last name of international authors in three rounds of increasing difficulty. However, it was apparent right from the start that Johnson couldn't spell, but he can write. Johnson's spelling was so bad, his wife was permitted to spell for him in the last round. The author she had to spell: Solzhenitsyn. She got it correct.
When the Death Match ended, Hayden conquered. The crowed cheered as Hayden was awarded a medal-ish kind of thing. Then everyone went home or out for the evening, probably with a little literature on their minds and the names of new authors embedded somewhere in their subconscious.