Thursday, 20 September 2012

Literary Death Match London

Last night I was one of the judges at Literary Death Match in London, with Wendy Wason, a stand-up comic and actress who was judging performance, and Tom Allen, a comedian, writer and actor who was judging intangibles. I was judging literary merit. Literary Death Match was hosted by Suzanne Azzopardi and Bruno Vincent, with readings from Maggie Alderson, Niven Govinden, Zoë Howe and Will Wiles.

Maggie Alderson, the author of twelve books, read from In Bed With, a collection of erotic fiction written by famous women writers under their 'porn star' pseudonym (to find yours, take the name of your first pet and the street you lived in as a child). Her story was great fun, and the collection includes stories by Fay Weldon, Chris Manby, Stella Duffy and others.Her new book, Everything Changes But You, comes out next year.

Niven Govinden read from Black Bread White Beer which has just been published by The Friday Project. He is the author of Graffiti My Soul and We Are The New Romantics as well as short stories, and was shortlisted for the 2011 Bristol Prize. Black Bread White Beer deals with 24 hours in a thirty-something couple's life as they deal with the aftermath of a miscarriage. If that sounds a bit miserable, there was plenty of humour in the passage Niven read last night, full of wry observations on modern urban life.

Zoë Howe is the author of Wilko Johnson - Looking Back At Me and Typical Girls (a biography of The Slits).

Zoë read from her new novel, The Art of Rock Star Maintenance, which draws on her background as a music journalist to create a comic story about the excesses and adventures of a fictional rock band.

Will Wiles read from his new novel, Care of Wooden Floors, which has just been published in paperback and as an ebook. It's a beautifully written, critically-acclaimed comic novel. The Times Literary Supplement called Care of Wooden Floors 'Funny, beguiling and quietly profound; a wonderfully well-crafted debut'. It has been longlisted for the Desmond Eliot Prize.

Will was proclaimed Literary Death Match champion last night and his reward was a medal on a ribbon to hang round his neck. I hope he's as proud of his medal as I am of mine, which hangs in the kitchen over a framed copy of the first review I ever got, which was for Alison Wonderland in The Times. I never thought winning was important until I unexpectedly won Literary Death Match last year, at which point I suddenly changed my mind.

But, of course, like all successful literary events, Literary Death Match is not about medals or winning. It was conceived as a brilliantly entertaining way of discovering new books by new and established authors, with short readings from four authors followed by a skills-based finale that owes more to chance than anything else, meaning that none of the authors goes home feeling disappointed or thwarted. Their prose will have been admired, they will have found a new audience for their books, and if they have failed to collect a medal, it will only be because their darts-throwing (or archery skills or literary general knowlege, or whatever has been tested) was not quite as good as the winner's, and not because anyone failed to fall in love with their book.

If you haven't been to a Literary Death Match, do consider going along if there's one in the city where you live - they take place all over the world, from San Francisco to Shanghai. If you have been along, or if you like the sound of Literary Death Match but will never get a chance to experience one unless it's on TV, then please consider donating on Kickstarter towards the TV pilot which will be filmed on 9th October in LA. I have donated. There are lots of rewards and treats for people who contribute. Have a look here.

The lineup for the TV pilot includes actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter and Six Feet Under)
writer/director Diablo Cody (Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno; Young Adult), author Susan Orlean (author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief which became Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation), musician Moby (Play; Destroyed), comedian Jenny Slate (author of Marcell the Shell With Shoes On & former SNLer). writer Ben Loory (author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) and poet Adrian Wyatt (featured in the Write Bloody zombie anthology Aim for the Head)


Helen W. Mallon said...

I was in the audience at the literary death match in Philadelphia This past summer. It was a howl! I wonder if the work is As raunchy elsewhere…

Helen Smith said...

Helen, that's great to hear. I think it depends - I have been to a few of them in London and each one has been different. We did have a bit of raunch from Maggie this time, which was very welcome!