Literary Death Match returns to Calgary as a part of Wordfest’s word festivities
Literary Death Match, hosted by co-creator Adrian Todd Zuniga, pits four notable and distinguished authors against each other in a hilarious literary battle.
Consisting of three rounds — rounds one and two see two different pairs of authors face off in a reading-style performance with the winners advancing to the third and final round — Literary Death Match is world-renowned. It is an event that promises to “(marry) the literary and performative aspects of Def Poetry Jam, rapier-witted quips of American Idol’s judging (without any meanness) and the ridiculousness and hilarity of Double Dare,”
After the huge success of last year’s “Episode One” during Wordfest 2013, audience members filled the Theatre Junction Grand’s Flannigan Theatre on Oct. 17 to watch the highly anticipated “Episode Two” in action.
The event was judged by Johanna Skibsrud (The Sentimentalist), Mark Tewksbury (Olympic swimmer and author of Inside Out: Straight Talk from a Gay Jock), and — last-minute fill-ins for Mayor Naheen Nenshi — Carrie Snyder (Girl Runner) and Chris Gordon (top comedian on CBC’s “So You Think You’re Funny?”). Round one saw Michael Crummey, author of Sweetland and short-listed for the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, pitted against Ann-Marie MacDonald, award-winning author, playwright and actress.
Crummey told the story of living in Halifax, of his strange house that used to be two houses and about how his bed was haunted by the ghost of a little boy, who shook the bedframe at night. His performance was thoughtful, inviting and intimate.
However, he was bested by MacDonald’s engaging and exciting reading of sections from her latest novel, Adult Onset. As Gordon noted in his feedback to MacDonald, what really gave her the edge over his opponent was her enthusiastic use of the word “motherfucker.”
Round two saw two much more earnest readings, delivered by Alison Pick, who read about her first experience with psychotherapy from her book, Between the Gods, and Matthew Thomas, who read from his novel, We Are Not Ourselves. Both readings were honest in their delivery, but ultimately Pick’s frank sincerity and unassuming humour in a dreary situation gave her the advantage.
The finale round saw both MacDonald and Pick square off in a game of “Lone Star Reviews,” wherein Zuniga read aloud one-star Amazon.com reviews, and each team had to guess which classic novel was being reviewed. The teams were made up of MacDonald and Pick, plus an audience member, and a third person chosen by each author (both of whom chose their former opponents). In this hilarious finale, Pick was content to sit back and allow Thomas to keep her team in the game, and although it did come down to a sudden-death final question, MacDonald’s enthusiasm and Crummey’s quick hand made Ann-Marie MacDonald the Literary Death Match Calgary Episode Two’s grand champion.
Literary Death Match is ultimately a hilariously fun celebration of a selection of today’s most talented authors. It is a great way to celebrate literature. It is such a genuinely enjoyable atmosphere, even those who perhaps aren’t necessarily the “bookish” type will enjoy themselves. It is definitely an event that will have you laughing the entire way through and certainly should not be missed when “Episode Three” rolls around!