The Literary Death Match

I watched the most extraordinary article on BBC news this morning where a reporter attended a ‘Literary Death Match’. Dubbed as the ‘X Factor of the book world’, four authors are given seven minutes each to read a passage from their book to an open audience. Once over, the readings are judged by a panel and a winner is announced.

It all seemed quite bizarre. Four seemingly established authors from different genres took to the stage individually to do their reading and ‘sell’ their book. Once over, a medal was awarded to the best writer, based on their literary merit and performance.

From the writers interviewed, some admitted they were a little nervous, others said they enjoyed the process – a chance to share their work.

I have to say that the news report piqued my curiosity. As soon as I reached my PC I did a little more digging and discovered that this is certainly not a new idea. The concept of the Literary Death Match was created by Adrian Todd Zuniga in 2006, and similar events now take place in cities across the world including New York, London, Dublin and Toronto. In 2012 he created a pilot TV series and many past events can be viewed on iTunes.

 Reports on the internet refer to these events as loud and sometimes raucous (the footage I watched could certainly be described as noisy in between readings), however Zuniga appears to claim that in the quest to find the ‘greatest writer of all time’ he creates an exciting, book friendly event which raises the profile of the need for books and literature in modern day society.

I’m not sure how I feel about such an idea. I enjoy author readings and find them relaxing and interesting events, a time to indulge in the words and find out more about your favourite writer and their work. The idea of a competition seems to hike up the anxiety and put a lot down to the act. My initial thoughts are that some good writers could lose out if they do not give an accomplished performance. As a new author, I’m sure it would scare the hell out of me!

That said, I suppose anything that raises the profile of literature and encourages more people to read cannot be a bad idea. Some may also argue that it offers new writers an opportunity to get additional exposure and find new readers. Similarly, it may afford readers the chance to discover new books. What do you think? As a reader, would you like to attend such an event? Or maybe you are a writer – would you like to participate? I’d love to hear your views.

You can find out more about ‘Literary Death Matches’ on their website here.  




14 thoughts on “The Literary Death Match

  1. Hi, just saw the bit saying they were going to do a piece on that before I left for work and then missed it. But, I think you may be wrong in saying it started in 2006. I was listening to ‘great lives’ on Radio 4 the other day on Primo Levi N Italian Jew who survived Auschwitz. Apparently students in Turin learnt Dantes Inferno by rote and then used to gather in the streets in the evening with students going up against each other reciting passages from it!

    Mr Levi sounds like a fascinating chap and it has spurred me to look at his books

    Good blog BTW

    • Hi Tom,
      That is interesting, I didn’t know that. I love ‘Great Lives.’ Must have missed that episode!
      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words.

  2. I think it seems a bit of a weird idea, to be truthful!

    The other day I saw a Twitter friend saying that she wondered why there weren’t more videos on YouTube of writers reading their books out, which is a similar sort of thing. I’ll tell you why: on paper, the words flow out of me. I’m articulate, expressive, etc etc. In person, I am not. I often go er, um, as I try to think of the right word. I talk too fast and too quietly. I am literate, rather than vociferous – and i expect this goes for many other writers, too. If I were to put my books onto audio, I would not be the one reading them. I would certainly not feel confident about appearing in front of a camera.

    I imagine that, because many of us are probably like this, this idea will never fully catch on!

    • Hi Terry,
      Thanks for commenting. I think you are probably right. This approach certainly seems to favour those who perform well in front of an audience.

  3. Seeing LDM is believing — pretty much every single writer who was afraid of the show came to see it, and said: “Oh! I get it now! I’d love to be part of it.”

    Primary reason being: the entire show is a giant love-in for books, humor and glee.

    It’s about celebrating literature in all of its forms and getting an audience that goes well beyond the literary circles that already attend such events.

    June 8 is our next in London. I won’t be hosting, as I’ll be burying myself in writing in LA, but it’s going to be a cracking good time, I promise.

    • Welcome Adrian! I feel quite honoured to receive a comment from the host. Thank you for stopping by, your shows have certainly created a lot of interest. I guess I’m just going to have to attend one to soak up the ambience:-)

  4. Hi Jane
    An interesting concept and not, by the sounds of it, for the faint hearted. I must admit to enjoying watching some authors read their work.
    I have mixed feelings as to whether I would like to do it. I have no problem in reading/telling a story to a class of primary children but it’s a different ball game to adults.
    I’ve watched some fascinating visiting story-tellers deliver their work whilst teaching but they became more like actors performing a short play. From what you’ve described, it sounds more like watching a play at the Globe where the audience often gets involved.- great fun as long as you’re not picked on to participate.
    Thanks for sharing this, I’m intrigued and will have to investigate further.

    • Hi Teresa,
      Yes, I think a play is a great analogy. It certainly seems to focus on the performance. Thanks for your comment. Lovely to see you here. I hope things are ok in your world x

  5. With a title like that I would have presumed that the losers fall through the floor and into a shark tank or something vile like that! Thankfully not. I suppose green slime falling on their heads was already take, huh? 🙂
    You know, I think I’m with you on this deal. Reading is meant to be quietly enjoyed, either in private or in a quiet audience while the author takes us on his or her grand adventure.
    How are you, my friend? It’s been too long. Enjoy your weekend. We get a three day over here. *rubs hands together* Can’t wait!

    -Jimmy

  6. I like the idea. As you said, anything that can help new writers find an audience is a good thing. I would read from Amy the Astronaut and the Flight for Freedom if given the chance.

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