I Tried To Go To Opium Magazine's New York Literary Death Match Last Night
I tried to go to Opium Magazine's New York Literary Death Match last night.

I really did.

Two times, I tried to get in the door, and two times I was denied.

From the "Death Match" promotional website:

"See Andrew Sean Greer, Cintra Wilson and Elliott Holt (Kenyon review) and Christopher Monks (McSweeneys.net) light the stage aflame before being critiqued by our delightful cast of judges, including the New Yorker's Ben Greenman, delightress Amy Sohn (My Old Man) and Joshua Lyon (Pill Head)."

Hosted by Todd Zuniga and Erin Hosier."

Maybe it was a good show. It cost five dollars and was held at an exclusive club in New York's Lower East Side called "The Slipper Room," where scum like me are are not allowed.

The first time I tried to get in, I was standing in the foyer of the club with Xerxes Verdammt, and we were discussing the plot to an "Aquaman" movie that we were considering filming. Aquaman would walk out of the sea at Brighton Beach and he would declare war on a caviar-smuggling ring that was destroying precious Northern waters. He would get a job at a pet store and creep the neighborhood out due to his obsession with a young boy and fish enthusiast who Aquaman swears is his beloved long-lost Aqualad. Confused, bewildered, and accused of crimes of the heart, Aquaman would then quickly dispatch the criminals responsible for the environmental degradation (perhaps too brutally), and then return to the sea, where things make sense.

"Hey buddy, it's five dollars to get in," said the "bouncer," a thin, tense man who was not a nearsighted gym coach from 1952 and who probably would have found the comparison uncharitable, despite his thick black glasses and close-cropped hair.

"I am waiting for my friends who are smoking outside. It is cold and raining."

"I would feel more comfortable if you were to pay NOW. You can't just stand there."

"I don't know how to respond to that. Are you going to bounce me?"

"You are handing out fliers for another show at another club in OUR club. You can't do that."

Maybe I was. Maybe he had a point.

I decided to go outside and be mad for awhile.

I wondered: is Opium Magazine a living symptom of the exclusive nature of literary art that has destroyed good writing in this country, an art which could (and should) be a pure meritocracy? Is Opium a new enemy, or merely a victim of bad management and bad booking?

I read a book in the cold rain while the rest of the Fiction Circus went in to see the show. I told people arriving late where the secret, hidden door to the Slipper Room was. As the show progressed, I could hear laughter and clapping inside. The bouncer's girlfriend came and went, bringing him hot food. I realized he was a human being after all -- a man just doing his job -- and I should not let my persistent bad attitude get in the way of enjoying a nice club filled with nice literature. I decided to try again.

"Alright," I said, stepping back inside the club. "I have five dollars and I would like to see this show of literature."

"Can I see some I.D.?"

"I don't have the kind of I.D. you want to check. All I have is my high school library card and the red plastic I.D. card they give you when you are homeless in a city hospital."

He took my library card away and showed it to the bartender.

"I can't let you in here," he said. "The bartender is not comfortable with it."

"I won't drink."

"Listen, man, you come in here all aggressive and hostile, acting like you are not 21. Are you 21? Come on man, talk to me, level with me."

"I am 27."

"He is 27!" shouted someone from inside the club. A friend? Now my mind was a haze of rage.

"Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me you are 27?"

I COULD do this, but I don't WANT to do this. Is this prison? Is this a city that contains sick, ugly, strange, difficult people who need literature to make sense of their hell, or does this city only contain pretty twenty-five-year-olds with money and Ivy League degrees?

Is this show not for me? Are they not reading stories on a stage inside with competitive fervor and attention to delivery excellence, a thing to which I have devoted my entire life?

"I guess I am leaving," I said.

NOTE: The Fiction Circus will never bounce you from our show, and our show is always free. If you aren't 21, and you want to come see our show and we are playing at a place where you can't get in, YOU JUST LET ME KNOW, and we will do a separate show in the parking lot, just for you.

FURTHERMORE: If any of the readers or audience members at the Opium Magazine Literary Death Match show want to see how it is REALLY done, then you should come to our show next Thursday, February 26th, at the Stain Bar in Brooklyn. We are the best fiction show in the world, and if any of you McSweeney's, Kenyon Review, or Opium bastards want to get embarrassed, go ahead and show up, and we will put you on stage between me and Dr. Future.

We will even be nice about it. We will joke and kid and hold no hard feelings.

We will still make you look bad by being infinitely better than you, however.

You will need to bring your own musician. Goodman Carter only plays his harp for those who have paid their dues in blood and tears.

Posted by miracle on Thu, 19 Feb 2009 13:40:42 -0500 -- permanent link

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