We decided to mix things up for the 2014 Literary Death Match session. Previously held during the Festival, this year was the first time for Literary Death Match to take place during our nighttime Lit Crawl Austin–an annual literary pub crawl, co-produced by the Texas Book Festival and Litquake Foundation, that features some of America’s most groundbreaking writers onstage at East Austin venues.
This year’s Literary Death Match took place at the North Door, and was a ridiculously brilliant night in which Scott Cheshire narrowly out-duel finalist Marlon James in a Literary Charades finale that ended in sudden death, winning Cheshire the LDM Austin, Ep. 8 title.
But before the finale was even a thought, the blazing night kicked off with Marlon James, Dayton Literary Peace Prize-winning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, who told the brilliant tale of a black woman talking about how men from around the world interact with her in bars and in bed. Next up was Marie-Helene Bertino (author of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas and Safe As Houses) who wowed with a story about her former lovers, who rain down around her and her being obliged to make small talk.
The mic was then handed to the trio of all-star judges: Jim Magnuson, director of the Michener Center for Writers, author of Famous Writers I Have Known; David Yow, vocalist for The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid; and Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number. The trio heaped praise and oddball commentary before huddling up and then announcing the night’s first impossible decision, declaring James as the night’s first finalist.
Then came Round 2, starring Mira Jacob, author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing and founder of Pete’s Reading Series, who rocked the audience with a hilarious story about a young Indian girl who witnesses her brother getting seduced and both have to endure their mom’s third degree about his hickey, that mom interprets as evidence of him getting beaten up. Finally, it was Scott Cheshire, author of High as the Horses’ Bridles, who had the crowd in throes with the story of a man dying of cancer, who lovingly endures his wife torturing him with food he can’t eat.
The mic was again handed to the judges, who were endlessly impressed with both writers, applauding their general brilliance, before making the night’s second impossible choice and deciding it would be Cheshire who would advance as the night’s second finalist.
Then up stepped LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga, who announced the night’s finale: Literary Charades. With a quartet of “actors” on the stage, Zuniga delivered titles of famous books adapted into TV shows or film that the actors had to play out while James and Cheshire guessed the titles. After James rocketed to an early lead, Cheshire stormed back. Then, with everything to play for it was Cheshire who shouted out “Friday Night Lights!” first, winning him the Literary Death Match Austin, Ep. 8 crown and literary immortality to go with it.