Literary Death Match 100: New York City Edition


1. The shinies: Host Ann Heatherington in her sparkly blazer & 2. Todd Zuniga, LDM founder, in his shiny blazer.

Dish! readers, in my freshman attempt to bring you some news from the literary scene last week, I told you that the Poetry Society of America packed the house at Cooper Union, and I didn’t say it for nothing because there was nary an empty seat in the place. But if I had any prescience, I would have reserved the phrase for Thursday night’s Literary Death Match at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. There, the house was so packed that an actual seat was a cute joke, filled so quickly that some people, including me, began perching on anything they could fit half an ass and many others remained standing in a back-room crowd (conveniently by the bar).

For all the bodies, the evening began calmly enough (our own Jesús Ángel García, who was spotted at LMD100: San Francisco earlier this month, has already explained the phenomenon more pithily than I could dream to). Event hosts Todd Zuniga, LDM founder, and Ann Heatherington welcomed, wearing the shiniest and sparkliest blazers ever, respectively (his: brocade, hers: black sequins). Round 1 pitted five-time Jeopardy champion and author Arthur Phillips against Electric Literature bestie Rick Moody. Philips showed off an uncanny internal timer, using the first five minutes of his slot to tell us about the new and never-published Shakespeare play discovered in a Philips family safe deposit box. He confessed that he has come to believe the work is a forgery, but legal hoo ha and that running timer prevented him from fully explaining. He concluded with a reading from the play, delivered in juicy rich iambic pentameter. Rick Moody followed with an excerpt from his Four Fingers of Death about stars in the night sky, so luxuriously written that most of the crowd was swooning by the end.

1. Arthur Philips, being pitted. 2. Rick Moody, being crowned winner.

Judges Liesl Schillinger (New York Times book critic), Kenny Mayne (ESPN correspondent), and Jena Friedman (comedian) — all damn funny — livened things up and gave the win to Rick Moody. Round 2 pitted supermodel-turned-author Paulina Poritzkova against novelist Amanda Filipacchi. Poritzkova showed off her multilingualism with a reading from her first-person book about a teenage model in France who, upon seeing a billboard of herself thinks, “I wanted to kiss myself, lick myself.” Then Filipacchi made it rowdy; she was almost drowned out by the laughter in the room as she read about Alan, the protagonist of her Love Creeps, sculpting a Play-Doh vagina in a college class about female self-love. It’s tough for someone as gorgeous as Paulina Poritzkova to lose, but the victory was easily Filipacchi’s. Kenny Mayne delivered the ruling: “vagina this, vagina that … the vagina’s gonna win every time.” Jena Friedman had called Poritzkova’s book a memoir but before the round 2 competitors left the stage, was corrected, “it’s a novel,” causing no one to stop imagining Paulina Poritzkova licking herself.

1. Paulina Poritzkova’s enviable cheekbones. 2. Amanda Filipacchi in the middle.

For the LDM championship title, the room split into teams as Rick Moody and Amanda Filipacchi squared off for a game of name-that-tune with songs that have literary references. Drinks went flying as people leapt over each other to hit the name-that-tune “buzzer” (the high-five hand of an LDM staffer). Arthur Philips took his vengeance on Moody by scoring a point for team Team Amanda, but ultimately Team Rick prevailed and Moody was crowned LDM king.

I could not continue on to the afterparty at Bowery Electric, but it was clear that the crowd by the bar had taken advantage of their location and the room was still abuzz from Poritzkova’s cheekbones and the many intonations of the female anatomy (Friedman said she preferred the pronunciation “ragina”). Did the hosts’ fabulous blazers end up elsewhere? Did Philips take the ‘death match’ thing too far and turn the night into a Bard tragedy? If you were there, let the truth set you free and keep the LDM magic alive in the comments.

– Kai Twanmoh is a lover of books and bookish things. She lives and works in New York City.

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