Last night I attended my first Literary Death Match, and while it would’ve been entertaining to simply be in the audience, I was experiencing this American Idol/Double Dare-esque reading as a competitor. A few weeks earlier, the most awesome Mindy Abovitz asked me if I wanted to represent Tom Tom Magazine in a battle of music writers. Who could say no to this?
To categorize myself as the underdog is an understatement. The other music writers battling for title of Literary Death Match Champion were none other than James Gavin, who’s written poetic and critically acclaimed biographies of Chet Baker, Lena Horne, and the like; Chris Weingarten, a freelance writer for The Village Voice and a million other pubs; and Jessica Hopper, author of The Girls Guide to Rocking and a totally talented and knowledgeable rock critic in her own right.
And the judges? Franklin Bruno, ex-Mountain Goat and great musician (as if being a former member of The Mountain Goats didn’t already imply as such); Ben Schafer of Da Capo Press; and Carla Rhodes, a comedienne and ventriloquist, who shared her judging duties with Cecil, the wooden puppet on her lap.
‘Music writer’ is luckily a broad label, since my qualifications for such a title can include a few interviews and some freelance work, upon which I’ve only started cutting my teeth. Otherwise, I felt very much just like a girl who loves music, draws comics, and sometimes cobbles essays together for publication. For the love of Tom Tom, I wrote and illustrated a comic entitled An Open Love Letter to Lady Drummers, kinko-ed up forty or so copies of the comic, and prepared to do a dramatic reading of the comic, and possibly die a literary death.
Round One saw Chris Weingarten read advice to anyone who wants to be a music journalist, which then spiraled into an anecdote about Ministry‘s roadie having his way with an ostrich. James Gavin read beautiful excerpts from both aforementioned biographies, and the judges deemed him the winner. He would then face either myself or Jessica Hopper in some sort of champion-deciding shenanigans.
There was a Camel Snuf box toss to determine who got to go first in Round 2. “Camel side up, or no Camel?” Jessica Hopper chose Camel; the oddly shaped box landed no Camel. I chose to go second. She read a piece from a fanzine about her love of Van Morrison’s album T.B. Sheets. Where literary merit was concerned, I knew she had me licked. I followed up with my stapled comics, my best read aloud voice, and my lady drummer love letter.
The judges then called a tie, of all things. (They were, for the record, not nearly as snarky as I had imagined they would be. While they did question the absence of Moe Tucker and Lindy Morrison from my list of female drummers, Franklin Bruno said that my comic made him a) want to drum, and b) question his gender assignment–success!) “What does that mean?” I laughed, to which host Luke Dempsey answered, “We don’t know.” The audience demanded a winner, and the judges conferred again and said I had won the round!
What happens to determine the actual champion in a battle of music writers, though? Why, a game of musical chairs, of course. James Gavin (“I’m scared of you,” he told me before the game began) chose two people for his team, and I chose two for mine (including my friend Mona, fellow teacher, and thus a most awesome secret weapon in a game of musical chairs). We circled the chairs (co-host Erin Hosier tried to cite me for being out as the last one to sit, which prompted us to need a refresher on the rules for, as Luke called it, Fucking Musical Chairs), and then one of James’ team was out, then James was out, then myself, until my two friends and one of James’ marched around two lone chairs. The music stopped. Mona and my friend plopped into chairs. The winner!
I was crowned with a golden record on a string that proclaimed me Literary Death Match Champion, NYC. I said I’d wear it to work today. So far, it looks pretty cool on my desk.
I promise to post here the comic in full, as soon as I get some quality time with my scanner (which may come after some quality time with my mfa app writing sample, but before some quality time with my GRE flash cards (groan)). Big thanks to friends who came out for the night (or watched the BPC live web cast!)
And lady drummers, please know, as always: my love for you stands tall. xo