The next few weeks will bring a slew of writers to Austin and San Antonio, but don’t expect the usual staid readings. Instead, authors will do battle for the sale of honor, glory, and the competitive literary spirit.
This Wednesday, March 26, at Austin’s Whip In, How Best to Avoid Dying author Owen Egerton will face off against Manuel Gonzales, author of The Miniature Wife and director of Austin Bat Cave, in a duel of writerly wits, or, more formally, a Lucha Libro. Co-sponsored by the Texas Book Festival and the Whip In, the event will feature authors competing for the title of best short-story writer in a series of cutthroat challenges, including (but not limited to) reciting their books’ sexiest sentence and reading their most offensive passages.
Steph Opitz, literary director of the Texas Book Festival, will act as referee. The Lucha Libro is free and open to the public, whose votes will determine the victor. The event aims to celebrate the releases of Gonzales’ and Egerton’s recent work with an evening of beer, readings and good-natured competition.
Though one author will go home defeated, hard feelings can’t last long, since Egerton and Gonzales will reunite on April 3 for another authorial battle. This time Egerton will sit on panel of “celebrity judges” and Gonzales will be one of four contestants in an American Idol-esque Literary Death Match at Austin’s Alamo Draft House-Ritz. Egerton will be judging alongside Austin musician Bob Schneider and Texas Literary Hall of Famer Sarah Bird as Gonzales takes on Jennifer DuBois, author of Cartwheel, A Partial History of Lost Causes and teacher at Texas State’s MFA program; Neal Pollack, author of Downward-Facing Death, Jewball, and certified yoga instructor; and Elizabeth McCracken, author of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination and holder of the James A. Michener Chair in Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin. Each author will read a 7-minute selection from their work and then submit to a ruthless critique from the judges, after which the winner will be chosen in a game show-style final round. You can buy tickets here.
Literary Death Match will then make its way to San Antonio on April 5, where Egerton will compete with Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta; Antonio Sacre, author of My Name is Cool: Stories from a Cuban-Irish-American Storyteller; and Malin Alegria, author of Border Town #4: No Second Chances—all under the inscrutable judgment of Texas Monthly editor in chief Jake Silverstein; Siempre Mujer Magazine editor in chief Maria Cristina Marrero; and chief of engagement for San Antonio nonprofit SA2020 Molly Cox. Produced by the San Antonio Book Festival, the event will be held at the end of the festival itself, which features free public readings from more than 70 national, regional and local authors. San Antonio Death Match tickets can be purchased here.
Both Literary Death Matches will be hosted by Adrian Todd Zuniga, founding editor of Opium Magazine and co-creator of the Literary Death Match Series, which he, Elizabeth Koch and Dennis DeClaudio premiered in 2006. Since then the event has traveled from Seattle to Beijing. Now it’s Texas’ turn.