Literati smackdown!

Filed under: News — marcia at 12:25 pm on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

So, we* knew we’d be sorry that we didn’t go to the “Literary Death Match” recently held in San Francisco.

I usually get something out of the readings and literary panels that I go to – sometimes inspiration, sometimes a good laugh that I have to hold in until I’m a polite distance from the event. But I have never been to one that erupted into multigenerational violence.

One of the judges, Howard Junker of Zyzzyva, said that Stephen Elliott of McSweeney’s “had no literary merit” as a writer. Later, Elliott threw beer on Junker! Yowza.

Elliott’s response:

“I don’t understand why Junker left last night,” said Elliott the next day. “I had a shirt in my bag he could have borrowed.”

You can read the sordid details here. And you can read about the time Howard Junker threw a book at my head here.

Update: Junker blogs his side of the story here.
–Marcia

*Self-conscious footnote: We = Joy and me; I do not use the royal we to refer to myself

6 Comments »

Comment by howard junker

July 31, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

I SUPPOSE you’re entitled to feel gleeful about someone throwing beer at me, but you might at least point to my blog, where i give my version of this unfortunate incident: http://zyzzyvaspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/07/my-bad-part-i-unfortunate-incident.html

best,
howard

Comment by marcia

July 31, 2007 @ 9:52 pm

Howard,
Thanks for linking to your side of the story. I don’t think pouring a drink on someone is appropriate behavior in any situation, let alone yours. I hoped that was something that could go without saying. When I quoted Elliott’s response, I thought it made him look so bad that I didn’t even need to draw any conclusions because there was no other conclusion one could draw.

Was I fascinated that something juicy happened? Definitely. I wouldn’t characterize that as glee, though it is gossipy to be sure.

-Marcia

Comment by Todd Zuniga

July 31, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

As a response to Howard’s blog: art is certainly not a competition, but at Opium we’re trying to make literary events, and literature matter in a new and compelling way. Of course people read, but the sheer amount of entertainment now is staggering. We care about words, and literature endlessly. Men in the ’60s used to read novels, now they play video games.

Our format is intended to be making fun of itself the entire time, a sort of Vik Muniz-style visual trick, one that puts butts in the seats to see a “death match” but ends up showcasing really wonderful literature to an audience–some of who might otherwise look the other way.

Todd Zuniga

Comment by Joy

August 1, 2007 @ 9:39 am

I would think that anyone who submits himself to a “literary death match” would be prepared to take some criticism. I’m surprised that Elliott, who I hear has lived a tough life of some sort, is so thin-skinned.

Regardless, the Word Pirates are totally going to the next death match. We like our literary functions to be exciting.

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