Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Because You Asked: Report from Nashville’s Literary Death Match



You enter The Stone Fox not knowing what to expect.  It’s just a local spot, with a bar and some tables and overworked waitresses.  There’s an energy in the room, but it’s not all good.  You’re waiting for the blood sport – or whatever lies ahead – to begin.  Then the house lights go down, and the stage lights go up, and you realize you’re part of a strange and enchanting circus of the written word.

It begins with the dapper ringmaster in his pin-striped suit, half Willy Wonka and half some Gatsby look-alike.  He’s as slick a showman as ever there was, engaging the authors, the judges and the audience.  One at a time, four authors stand before us to bare their souls (or their lusts, or their memories, or their imagination) in seven minutes or less.  Three judges sit on the side of the stage, offering commentary both clever and absurd.  The audience is hushed – then roaring – in delight and shock, depending on the author.  Several rounds of readings produce two finalists who are surprised by a turn to a game show format led by our fast-talking ringmaster.  The quickest author to the bell with the right answer wins.  The finalists (along with audience help) must correctly identify famous authors based on one-star reviews from

IMG_0939In the end, Adam Ross emerged triumphant, crushing an ill-tempered if beautiful young poet.  “Fuck you!” she cried to the ringmaster after losing – “You didn’t include any poets!” (In the final game show phase of the competition, she meant.)

Adam Ross, you’ll recall, wrote the disturbing and genius Mr. Peanut and the more civilized short story collection Ladies and Gentlemen.  “I always thought it would be great to win the Pulitzer,” he said the day following his big win, “but this might be enough.”

IMG_0935Judge Andrew Maraniss (Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South) kept it kind, funny, and classy in the “Literary Merit” category.  Judge Mary Laura Philpott (editor of Parnassus’ Musing blog and producer of I Miss You When I Blink) brought a lot of saucy smarts as judge of “Intangibles.”  Audience member and local luminary Townes Duncan brought his son and their combined wit and knowledge (including a willingness to shout answers to a poet in distress).

I stumbled out of the Literary Death Match sure that I’d never seen anything like it before and never would again – until next October, when it returns with a new cast of characters.  Thank you to The Porch Writers’ Collective for helping bring this amazing spectacle to town.

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You can hear Adam read from his newest work this Monday night, April 20th, at Montgomery Bell Academy’s Pfeffer Auditorium at 5 p.m.


  1. Excellent ringside report, Jennifer! Glad you made it out unscathed. Hope nobody got hurt.

  2. Thanks, Don! I didn’t see any blood spilled, but the night was still young when I left. xo

  3. What an interesting venue and what a great recounting of it. Thank you for sharing news of an event of which I was completely unaware.

    While the poet was apparently not gracious in defeat, I do empathize with her to a degree. Quickness of mind is a wonderful gift, but I do feel that it comes at times at the expense of depth of thinking. And, I do feel that some people who are especially skilled in repartee sometimes regret not having held their tongue.

    Regardless, your blog is quite interesting; and I enjoy your focus upon and leads to literary interests.


  4. Thanks, De! I hear you – and I appreciate so much your comment! I felt for her too. xo

  5. So fun to read this, Jennifer! You definitely captured the raucous spirit of the event. Spot on! And thanks again for the shout-out to The Porch!

  6. So glad to get the run down! It was great fun and I’m sorry I couldn’t stay till the end!!

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