Literary Death Match: a survivor’s story

So conventional wisdom is that books are meant for the bath, under the bed-covers, that secret connection between the reader and the writer where the maelstrom of modern life is locked out and the story, plot and characters whisk you away from your relationship problems/sexually aggressive co-worker/failed new haircut. But that’s so 1.0. It’s 2015.  We want a ‘conversation’.  Some two-way.  A platform for bilateral intercourse.

I’ve been to a thousand readings with a thousand authors who don’t want to play this game.  They want to write.  Maybe in a shed.  Or a loft conversion.  Sometimes smoke.  Occasionally have some friends over for port and Gin Rummy.  Or they’re so full of self-loathing that other people make them want to stick pencils in their eyes. Literary Death Match isn’t warm wine and stale conversation in a chain bookstore.  Literary Death Match is sex and spotlights and words and whoops and everything egotistical limelight-bathing applause-sucking little fragile writers like me need.

I played the game in a giant tent in the shape of a cow on London’s South Bank.  There were lots of people there.  Like hundreds. Like One Direction 2036 reunion tour big.

Le Big Tent

Le Big Tent

The other writers were Joe Dunthorne, of the incredible Submarine infame, Nat Luurtsema who did a BAFTA and an Edinburgh, and Amber Tamblyn, an actress from House and 127 Hours whose rather lush book of poetry had illustrations from David Lynch and Marilyn Manson.  I thought woah, this chick rolls deep.

Blaming my bad hair on London's unpredictable weather patterns- also Nat Luurtsema, Joe Dunthorne, Amber Tamblyn

Blaming my bad hair on London’s unpredictable weather patterns- (l to r clockwise) Nat Luurtsema, Joe Dunthorne, Amber Tamblyn

We did some readings.  I did a box to the crowd and then felt sad because no-one else did a box to the crowd but having watched the show reel before going on-stage it seemed like boxing to the crowd was a pre-requisite.

SS15: Baggy knees/bovver boots

SS15: Baggy knees/bovver boots

I read from my novel-in-progress Alone, Together.  The judges seemed to dig it.   They included Molly McGrann, novelist and the former editor of The Paris Review, who was a fan of the dialogue and details.  Cariad Lloyd, a funny ha-ha comedian, liked the way I threw the just-read pages on the floor. Marcel Lucont, all Serge schtick par excellence, was certain that my trousers weren’t tight enough for a man named Tyte, while riffing on modern tech talk (he wants a book to turn him on, not the other way around, laydeez) and David Cross, Netflix hero of Arrested Development, who despite liking the fact the casino referenced in the the reading was in Macaw, admitted to being distrustful of Welsh people. It’s fair to say the vibe was more lit laugh than lit crit.

Molly McGrann, Cariad Lloyd, Marcel Lucont, David Cross

Molly McGrann, Cariad Lloyd, Marcel Lucont, David Cross

So, lets address the elephant in the blog here, I didn’t win (that was Nat Luurtsema for an ace reading on teenage twins for her upcoming YA novel, before winning a buzzer round on guessing 1-star Amazon classic reviews e.g. Interesting, if you’re a tie-dye hipster*), but a previous non-winner just won an Oscar.  Life goals just got a whole lot harder.

PS Big thanks to my agent Hannah Sheppard from DHH Literary Agency, Adrian Todd Zuniga and Suzanne Azzopardi from Literary Death Match, @BenCMeadows, @SarahWorthy and @jadebell88 for pics and Picador Books and the lovely Kate Green for sponsoring.

* 10/10 for On The Road.