Things Get Heated at Literary Death Match

Cunnilingus quickly emerged as the unifying theme of Thursday night’s Literary Death Match. With three females and a Sarah Lawrence man competing, the subject seemed inevitable.

The first combatant to read was Melissa Petro, author of Sex Work Matters: Power and Intimacy in the Sex Industry, who wooed the audience with a story of youthful experimentation and portentous deflowering. Benjamin Hale, author of the forthcoming The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, countered with a tale of primal urges between a primate and biologist.

The next bout pitted Rachel Shukert, author of Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour, against Dasha Kelly, author of Hershey Eats Peanuts. Rachel, the first to strike, regaled the crowd with a tale of a lost crown and sexual assault at the hands of Italian dental hygienists. Dasha stood her ground, countering with a combo of poems, recited from memory: one about the quest and conquering of orgasm, the other about our collective place in history.

The competition was fierce, but a sophisticated panel of judges arose to the occasion. The trio consisted of: Bruce Benderson, author of The Romanian: Story of an Obsession, who judged literary merit and smoked a smokeless, electronic cigarette; songstylist Michael Hearst, of the band One Ring Zero, who critiqued performance and admitted that he felt like Howie Mandel on America’s Got Talent; and Elna Baker, on sabbatical from the Church of Latter Day Saints and author of The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, who weighed in on the “intangibles” and enlightened the audience on the realities of “moose kisses.”

Melissa and Rachel were the evening’s finalists, the title ultimately conferred upon Rachel following a round of audience members pelting the pair with balls of duct tape symbolizing cholera (apparently there’s history there: August was once cholera season in New York, and consequently became the month that the publishing industry chose to vacate the city).

What did Rachel think of her victory? “I’m thrilled to have vanquished my enemies,” she said. “Although I contracted cholera and will soon die in a pool of my own bloody stool, at this moment, victory is sweet.”

–Benjamin Samuel is an Editorial Assistant for Electric Literature. He graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, will begin an MFA at Brooklyn College this fall, and was voted by his high school as Most Likely to be Seen at the Diner.

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