War of Words

Which author will slay? It's murder by humor at the Literary Death Match, coming to Guild Hall on Friday night


You might have read that a Literary Death Match is coming to Guild Hall in East Hampton on Friday, July 7 . . . but what the hickory hock is a Literary Death Match? Well, if poetry slams were funny, you could say the a Literary Death Match was part poetry slam, part PechaKucha, with a little bit of NPR's Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me thrown into the mix. Generally, it's a stage full of smart literary types making the audience laugh and trying to win the favor of the celebrity judges. It's fun, it's hilarious, and you come away feeling cleverer than when you stepped in.

For the Death Match night at Guild Hall's John Drew Theater, which starts at 8, the contestants, clever raconteurs all, are Elna Baker, a writer and comedian best known for her work for This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour; Chimene Suleyman, a British poet and contributor to The Guardian; Sunil Yapa, a fiction writer whose debut novel, Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, came out last winter (you may have caught him on Late Night With Seth Myers), and Dan Wilbur, a comedian, actor, and author of How Not to Read.

The ever-charming Dick Cavett of Montauk — who, of course, became a superstar with his talk show because he could make almost any conversation captivating — will lead the team of judges, assessing "intangibles." Jena Friedman, also a comedian and writer, as well as being the producer for The Late Show and The Daily Show, will rate performance. Rakesh Satyal, whose latest novel, No One Can Pronounce My Name, came out in May to stellar reviews, will judge literary merit. The host and creator of the Literary Death Match genre is Adrian Todd Zuniga; he runs evenings such as this everywhere from San Francisco to Bucharest, and will also be on hand.

Each of the contestants is given seven minutes to deliver excerpts of their most compelling writing. They compete in pairs, with the judges offering critiques and determining the winners of the first round, who then square off in a final.

Tickets, from $32 to $65, are available at the box office or at guildhall.org.

Top: Adrian Todd Zuniga leads a group of competitors on stage in the Spiegeltent at the London Wonderground.

- 30 -