Simon and Schuster author Will Clarke will represent Dallas in Friday's Opium Literary Deathmatch, which is basically like those high school prose performance competitions with a panel of part-silly judges a la American Idol. Except the contenders and the judges are charged with being genuinely funny people, and this is confirmed (in most cases) with publishing credits for widely distributed books.
With Opium founding editor Todd Zuniga as ringmaster, local author Ben Fountain, Kitchen Dog Theater's Tina Parker and Austin writer Owen Egerton will spout comedic commentary after Clarke and writers representing Houston, San Antonio, and Austin perform eight minutes or less of their work.
So lets get to know Team Will. He wrote from the point of view of an affluent dead guy in The Worthy: A Ghost's Story (2006) and ruins another rich dude with substance abuse before saving him via a Hindu holy man Lord Vishnu's Love Handles: A Spy Novel (Sort Of) (2005). His truer claim to fame is the essay "How to Kill a Boy No One Liked," which was challenged as "pornographic" by Rhode Island parents enraged with the assigning of the coming-of-age essay in their high schoolers' English class. Clarke assured them his teenhood was nothing of the sort.
We know this much: if you've got money, Clarke will find a way to mess you up. We're pretty certain the writers he's up against do not fit this bill, given their profession.
So Clarke will have to rely on his brains and the literary works that most recently inspired him. We gave Clarke a leg up by allowing him to be the judge first, choosing three books he read in the past year and issuing a theatrical ruling like the ones you'll see Friday.
Have a look:
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers: The story of Katrina ravaged New Orleans told from the heroic eyes of a an Islamic house painter in a pirogue.
Literary Merit: Dave Eggers prose is transparent yet powerful, like water. The story is un-put-downable.
Performance: The book is from quirky small press, McSweeney’s. It’s beautifully bound and typeset. The printing is a work of art itself. The well-crafting printed piece feels good in your hands and ads to the joy of reading such a great story.
Intangibility: Hipster overtones. Keeping this book on your coffee table says that you might live in Brooklyn or dress from Urban Outfitters even though you’re in your 40s.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Literary Merit: My absolute favorite book in a long time. The National Book Award people also felt the same.
Performance: The cartoon illustrations add to the character development. Makes me wish I would have thought of doing this with a character. This book is so wonderful I refuse to lend it out to anyone.
Intangibility: National Book Award golden seal displayed on the cover and ultimately as you read it, tells your have only the finest in literary tastes. Philistines will have no idea that it’s a young adult novel as a result.
Everything Hurts by Bill Scheft
Literary Merit: Funny. Which a lot of books say they are, but let’s be honest, they’re not. Well, Bill Scheft, who is also the head writer for Late Night With David Letterman, is very funny and his book is even more so.
Performance: Not my favorite cover of the year but that’s okay. Don’t let this stop you from buying a copy. Remember what your crotchedy grade school librarian should have learned you, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Intangibility: Laughter. You need to laugh more. This book can help you do it.
The Literary Death Match is at the Dallas Museum of Art as part of its Fresh Ink series. Find tickets to the event here. Horchow Auditorium, 7PM.