Literary Death Match – The Proud Archivist, London, 15th May

Literary Death Match – The Proud Archivist, London, 15th May

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When you first hear of a concept titled Literary Death Match, several connotations swirl around in your mind, and until you actually spend an evening in the company of the two hosts, Adrian Todd Zuniga and Suzanne Azzopardi, it is most likely that you will not fully comprehend the running of a night such as this.

Despite the late and disorganised twitch to this evening the founder Zuniga, and manager Azzopardi hold the night well, sophisticatedly attired in black dress and grey suit the pair possess enough humour and literary knowledge to entertain and amuse most of their guests. And if that was not enough to keep their smiles expressive then those that arrived first were obliged to laugh and clap, with their free copies of George Saunder’s award-winning short stories collection, Tenth of December, under their noses.

Attending their fortieth episode, the audience witnessed writers Mark Watson, Heather O’Neill, Lloyd Shepherd and Elizabeth Aaron all chaotically take to the stage to compete for the judges kudos and admiration with their performance, and their literary prowess (only for a mere seven miuntes). Shepherd’s dark and brooding, illustrious prose within his Savage Magic was followed by Aaron’s postmodern Helen Fielding influenced text set within the fashion world (seemingly the foundations of hit television series, Ugly Betty), Low Expectations, two extremely different styles and genres of writing that the contrast is stark.

After a breather and interjection from the hosts, we were then subjected to a story about a child writing a story about a gypsyfrom Heather O’Neill and finished with Mark Watson, reading his book controversially from his phone, one of the shorts from Hotel Alpha. Also lacking in comparison, it appears that this all comes down to the mood In which the judges are in, sporadically, and for the talent, is to be taken tongue-in-cheek, as there were after all comedians on the panel.

Author Aleks Krotoski, Game of Thrones actress Gemma Whelan and last minute addition and comedian, Gerry Howell, inhaled these extract readings and commented on all four, constructively and comically criticising. After dissecting the readings and writing style two were then chosen to compete in a death match style in a style similar to Win, Lose and Draw (but obviously with a bookish theme), aiming to gain points to ultimately win the competition which fills the majority of the running order for the evening.

A maelstrom of literary facts, quick off the mark witticisms and nervous, adrenalin-fuelled attempts by writers to sell their novels is the gist of this literary social night. If that is what you are after then you have come to the absolutely correct niche, in this little corner of Haggerston on the canal. However, I must point out that Suzanne and Adrian’s nights are worldwide, and it is not just the hipness depths of East London that reap the satisfaction from their offerings.

Nights such as these and The Salon, which is more quirks but for the non-fiction reader, do aim to keep excitement buzzing around literature and books, but as expected, do preach to the converted. Blatantly fantastic to freshen and diversify the conversation that can be had around literature, opening up the social aspects of reading, but it is unlikely that a night such as this will in fact widen the book market (and then maybe that is too weighty a pressure to place on any given book night’s shoulder).

There is an element of the exclusive to this eve, whereby comedy and literature combine to give lit-nerds and bookies a club to feel that they may belong, but it does rub well with me, and to any other bookish character, which in East London I am sure there are plenty.  However, I will point out that should you not be an introverted reader of the classics, with an inane enthusiasm for literary facts then this is clearly not a night for you. It is not, with its reference humour and running order style lend itself to any other crowd, inviting to those that may be intimidated by the page-turning intensity of the remainder of the crowd. Accessibility is not LDM’s asset.

However, as aforementioned, livening the conversation up between literary lovers, curating nights such as these to swell their taste buds, and heighten their infotainment, there is no criticism to be made. Despite the ostensible chaos nearing the beginning of Literary Death Match, they pulled the night together at the end albeit rather nicely (although not entirely sure if the inclusion of Social Book Week was really required, or simply pushed the exclusion factor). Just be certain that if you are a writer competing at one of these events, do not be too disheartened if you fail to pitch that baby of yours you have tended to for the last few months, purely because you did not get Herman Melville’s Moby Dick from a sketching of a musician and the male genitalia. It is all part of the fun.

For more information on this and LDM nights to come, please do check out their website:


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