A Battle of Brains

"A meeting of minds, literature enthusiast, and, well, people who just like to scream."


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Literary Death Match,
World Cafe Live, October. 17, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
3025 Walnut St, 215-222-1400, literarydeathmatch.com,
Limited free tickets available,

I had a window frame from 12:30pm to 1:15pm to catch Adrian Todd Zuniga for a phone interview, before he boarded his flight. Knowing that I would have to conduct this interview during office hours, I was determined to create a cocoon of silence away form water cooler chitchat, and the riling giggles from the office across the hall. I set up my laptop in the conference room and quickly jotted down the few incomplete thoughts. 12:35pm rolled around, and I dialed his number exhaling deep breaths after every ring.

He didn’t answer. I hovered over my phone for the next ten minutes waiting for him to call me back. My co-workers went out for lunch, while I ignored my groaning stomach and continued waiting. An hour later I realized my colossal mistake and journalistic boo boo. Mr. Zuniga lives in California.

“I thought that you would figure that out,” Mr. Zuniga says, after I apologized for interrupting his morning teeth brushing. Adrian Todd Zuniga is the curator, host, and co-creator of the Literary Death Match. Our paths first crossed at last year’s show during Drexel’s Week of Writing.

The Literary Death Match mixes comedy with competition and literature. A Match is made up of four writers, three judges, two rounds, and one “epic finale.” Writers are given seven minutes in each round to outshine the competition with their words and deliverance. The matches are intentionally different from typical readings. “We wanted to make readings fun, because some readings are fun, but on average they’re boring,” says Mr. Zuniga. LDM has broken the stuffy atmosphere of dull readings, by adding a performance element.

The two-finalist duel for the crown in what Mr. Zuniga describes as a “vaguely literary game.” Past finales have included spelling bees of difficult writers’ names, and pin the mustache on Ernest Hemingway.

Sure, spoken word is a powerful form of expression, but add Nerf guns and sac races, and I’m sold! My first experience attending one of the Death Matches was certainly scrapbook worthy. I remember sitting in the audience feeling like I had been introduced to world of people who would understand my nerdy-lit references. I had met a community that would appreciate my jokes about owning hermit crabs named “Percy and Mary Shelley”, and my occasional tipsy T.S Elliot reciting.

This Wednesday’s Literary Death Match celebrates the 250th match, and the fourth show in the city of Brotherly love. The competition will feature four local writers: Dan Wilbur, author of “How Not to Read: Harnessing the Power of a Literature-Free Life,” Kimberly Southwick, the editor-in chief of Gigantic Sequins, flash fiction writer Randall Brown, and General Idea co-curator and author, Kim Gek Lin Short. Judging the talented lineup is comedian Carolyn Busa, Philadelphia Tribune’s lifestyle reporter, Bobbi Booker, and one of Philly’s finest storytellers, author, and play writer, R. Eric Thomas.

Literary Death Match is a meeting of minds, literature enthusiast, and, well, people who just like to scream. The show has something for everyone, and there is no better way to find that out than attending one for your self. So, bring a friend, a family member, or anyone who has ever-cracked open a book, and indulge in literary lunacy.

Amanda V. Wagner is a junior English Major at Drexel University and the student editor of the Cultural Passport. Follow Amanda on twitter at @amandavwagner