Literary Death Match Comes to Southampton on July 16

Keegan Michael Key
Keegan Michael Key takes the stage, Photo: Jason Gutierrez/Literary Death Match

What happens when you toss great literature, arbitrary judging criteria and comedic judges into a boxing ring? You get Literary Death Match (LDM), “the most entertaining reading series ever” according to the Los Angeles Times. LDM is a ground-breaking take on both the written and spoken word—an electrifying, feel-good spectacle that’s part literary event, part comedy show and part game show.

On July 16 at 7 p.m., the Southampton Writers Conference presents Literary Death Match at Avram Theater to celebrate the launch of the Summer/Fall issue of TSR: The Southampton Review.

Every year, more than 10,000 people attend LDM events all over the world in cities as varied as Paris, London, Bucharest, Reykjavik, Hong Kong, Helsinki and more. Authors read their best work while a panel of judges evaluates the literary merit, performance and “intangibility” of the writing. The final round abandons any pretense of intellectual sensibility as the remaining authors compete in an absurd and comical climax for the title of Literary Death Match Champion. New Yorker columnist Been Greenman says, “Literary Death Match combines the best things about literature, mixed with a rare, anarchic energy.”

Master of Ceremonies for this thrilling evening at Avram is Adrian Todd Zuniga, the creator of LDM, and an award-lining journalist and founder of Opium Magazine. The judges are Washington Post book critic Ron Charles; best-selling author of The Interestings Meg Wolitzer; New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik; and two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

The four competitors include Iris Smyles, author of the semi-autobiographical novel Iris Has Free Time and the newly-released Dating Tips for the Unemployed, and whose story “Donner, Party of Two” appears in the Summer/Fall 2016 issue of The Southampton Review; Tracy M. King-Sanchez, an award-winning screenwriter, playwright, fiction and nonfiction writer; poet Timothy Liu, author of Bending the Mind Around the Dream’s Blown Fuse; and Helen Simonson, the New York Times best-selling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War.

Even the music has a literary influence: Zach Lazar’s band will provide groovy tunes during the show. Lazar is the author of Sway, named Best Book of 2008 by the Los Angeles Times, as well as the memoir Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder. He’s also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University.

Since 1976, the Southampton Writers Conference, which takes place at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, has brought together writers at all stages of their careers with world-class novelists, essayists, editors, poets and children’s book authors for lectures, readings, panels, and workshops.

TSR: The Southampton Review is the literary journal of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton. Founded by Lou Ann Walker in 2008, The Southampton Review consistently publishes award-winning fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, and art and photography portfolios from established and emerging authors and artists. “This is a literary journal that readers will keep for a very long time, that they’ll dip into again and again, discovering new voices and visions while savoring long-standing favorites,” Walker says. “The Southampton Review is thrilled to be hosting Literary Death Match! What a wonderful marriage of literature and hijinks. The event will be hilarious, thought-provoking and high spirited.”

Whether you’re a lover of literature or just enjoy good ol’ comedy and competition, this is a show you won’t want to miss.

Catch Literary Death Match on July 16 at 7 p.m. sharp at Avram Theater, located on the Stony Brook Southampton campus at 239 Montauk Highway, Southampton. Call 631-632-5030 or visit for more information.

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