Literary Death Match
Hace unos días estaba leyendo el post de En Minúscula sobre el espectáculo en la literatura actual (el post parte de un artículo de Rodrigo Fresán que, lamentablemente, ya no está en la red) y me encontré con la lapidaria frase de Elizabeth Costello: ?Si aceptas el dinero, también tienes que aceptar el espectáculo?. Supongo que ni la Costello se podía imaginar a qué grado puede llegar eso de ?espectáculo? cuando se trata de veladas literarias en Inglaterra. Desde slams literarios, donde se mezclan lecturas de escritores tan prestigiosos como William Boyd, AL Kennedy, Dave Eggers, Hari Kunzru, Nick Hornby and, most recently, Zadie Smith con música rap, hasta los Literary Death Match que organiza Todd Zuñiga.
Un artículo muy bien documentado de The Guardian cuenta de qué trata lo que califica como The New Wafe of Literary Events. Aquí va la descripción, por ejemplo, de un Literary Death Match.
?This is my Fight Club,? says Todd Zuniga, the editor of American creative writing magazine Opium and the inventor of Literary Death Match, who is already confusing me with his appearance: strikingly fresh-faced, he tells me he is 35; exuding hipness, he is nonetheless wearing a slightly grotesque white jacket with Miami Vice-style rolled-up sleeves. It transpires that his outfit is in keeping with the evening?s 80s theme, chosen to honour Bret Easton Ellis?s new novel Imperial Bedrooms. With Ellis in town ? he has earlier in the week appeared at the Festival Hall before a sell-out audience ? all the whispers in the room are of whether he?ll grace tonight?s event with his presence.
If, at around 10pm, Ellis did slip quietly into the basement of Concrete, a former industrial space reclaimed for the pleasure of the hedonistic twenty- and thirtysomethings who throng to London?s Shoreditch on a nightly basis, he might not have immediately recognised the spectacle before him as a bookish sort of gathering. Literary Death Match was reaching its climax. In the couple of hours before, four writers ? Milly McMahon, Clare Pollard, Lee Rourke and Nikesh Shukla ? had read their work in strictly timed seven-minute segments, and found themselves the subject of an instant critique from a panel of judges. Among the highlights had been a somewhat painful account of a virginity long in the losing and, from Shukla?s forthcoming novel Coconut Unlimited, which tells the story of a group of teenage Asian wannabe rappers in Harrow, the author?s crowd-delighting version of Public Enemy?s ?Don?t Believe the Hype?.
Now Rourke and Pollard were slugging it out to claim the title; but that involved neither earnest declarations of literary intention nor intricate comparisons of imagery. Instead, in what amounted to a gameshow finale, audience members flung themselves at the stage to the tune of 80s pop songs to declare their allegiance. By the time Rourke, author of the novel The Canal, finally won through, the scene resembled something like Mike Reid?s Runaround mashed up with The Late Review. ?I usually read in little bookshops in front of about 20 people,? Rourke told me. ?I guess LDM brings literature to those who wouldn?t necessarily step into a little bookshop to hear an author read.?
But if the face that Literary Death Match presents to the public is determinedly chaotic and endearingly amateurish, then its rise demonstrates a rather steelier business acumen. Launched in 2006 in New York, it has now enjoyed 97 outings in 23 cities, spreading from Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco and Dallas to London, Oxford and Paris, where Zuniga now lives. In August, it will take to the Edinburgh stage for the first time, and make a return visit to Beijing?s Bookworm bookshop, the scene of the first international Death Match last year. It?s no surprise to hear that Zuniga, who originally saw it as a way to promote Opium, now envisages it attracting corporate sponsorship.