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What’s it like to be in a Literary Death Match, Minneapolis/St. Paul Edition?

I suppose you wonder what it’s like to be in a Literary Deathmatch, Minneapolis/St. Paul Edition. No, sure, many of y’all have been to a Literary Deathmatch, Minneapolis/St. Paul Edition, and some of you have even skillfully written of what that’s like. But precious few have ever actually participated. To describe it … well, it would be like describing making love for the first time, or relating what it was like to kill a person or animal that you hated. You might say what it felt like, the anticipation, the nervousness, the fumbling, groping hands, the brief ecstasy, the embarrassed relief at it being over, and the sinking feeling that you now have more dead horse on your hands than you could possibly fit on your bike. You could say all that, and it would all be true, but something would still be missing in the retelling.

Still, what’s the use if we don’t try, right? I would hate for the next contestants of a Literary Deathmatch, Minneapolis/St. Paul Edition to step in front of the microphone and be totally, utterly unprepared. You shouldn’t be up there just wondering where to squeeze, you know?

The obvious analogy, of course, is to Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome. I’m assuming everyone has seen it, yes? Any one of the Paperdarts women could take the place of Aunty (Tina Turner, duh), Todd Zuniga would be the elfin Master, or maybe the ringleading Dr. Dealgood, and Brian Beatty, obviously, is the hulking Blaster. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Yes and no. Beyond all of that the comparison falls apart. We all know that “two men enter, one man leaves” the Thunderdome, but you’ll recall that in the original Literary Deathmatch, Minneapolis/St. Paul Edition, two men, one woman, and one person who considers himself something between a child and a man entered, and all of them left more or less alive. And, formidable opponent that he was, Beatty walked away with some sort of golden cup or title belt, and not a crossbow bolt in his chest.

The more apt comparison might be to one’s own birth—there’s the awareness that things could go terribly wrong, and the certainty that if you come through it you will find yourself in a strange, bright new phase of your life. Also, assuming your mom is there, she will be hurt. Obviously I don’t mean she’d be hurt because a whole person just dove through her vagina, I mean that she would probably hear you reading about going to jail or hating her, and that would emotionally wound her.

It’s grim, I know, but that’s literature for you. A Literary Deathmatch (Minneapolis/St. Paul Edition) is of course no exception. I mean, it’s mostly pain, when you think about it. A really funny joke that you had carefully crafted over the course of several weeks might for sure fall completely flat, even though anal warts are hilarious, and that hurts. A beautiful local rapper will very likely make a comment about your sweater vest that you will have no choice but to interpret as cutting and cruel. And some large, bearded man in a fisherman’s cap will probably eliminate you in the first fucking round, even though he’s an awful person.

That’s what you should all be curious about. You probably know what it’s like to read, maybe even what it’s like to read in front of people. But you have no idea what it’s like to be booted onto the stack of history’s also-rans by a monster and a troupe of philistines. It’s like being one of those hemophiliac princes. You might have those creepy Hanoverian eyes, but you also have a lifetime of gold coins, game hens, Cinderella-style carriages, and all the royal tail in the world to look forward to. And then you bonk your knee and bleed to death. Except it’s not God and genetics that do it to you, it’s some horrible bearded savage, and a gang of judges that couldn’t see the humor in anal warts even if their lousy faces were covered in them. It makes me so mad!

Then, you can spend the next goddamn year wondering where you went wrong and writing erotic fan fiction about your imagined academic career at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But no matter how many times you embarrass Harry Potter on the pitch, or how hard you make out with Professor Trelawney, reality will keep slipping in through the cracks below the doors, swirling up from the ashes of the fireplaces, and appearing among the pumpkin pies and roasted swans in the dining hall. “You are no good, John,” it says in 5-7-5. “Literally retarded. Enjoy life alone.”

Do you understand?

Anyway, it was a great experience, and everyone was wonderful! I’d love to do it again some time.


John Gordon is like a latter-day Judas, because he's always thinking about kissing Jesus. Except Judas probably never owned as much awesome stuff as me. I also struggle with the third person. I have hobbies and things.



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