The blood drawn during modern literary feuds has come from paper cuts. So
isn’t the title “Literary Death Match”—a reading last week at The
Slipper Room, hosted by Opium magazine and bombshell literary agent Erin Hosier—a hopeless contradiction in terms? I didn’t dare pose the question to bottle-blonde Times shopping columnist Cintra Wilson as she got ready to battle it out with the bookish redhead Elliot Holt of
The Kenyon Review. The former sashayed past me dressed like a film noir
black widow mourning the husband she murdered—a la Barbara Stanwyck in
Double Indemnity. Flipping up a black veil from under an enormous
floppy black hat, Wilson revealed her eyes were covered in wraparound
shades. In Jean Arthur 1930s screwball comedy diction, she pattered,
“This is a funeral darling.”
A skinny, middle-aged guy with a
hangdog mug crept over with high, exaggerated steps. He pinched
Wilson’s ass.When she craned her neck around to get a fix on her
assailant, the floppy hat caught him in the face. It was the indie
character actor Richard Edson. The actor—no stranger to NYPD
detective roles—fidgeted with his long, gray scarf and pointed at a
dark-green messenger bag in the middle of the floor.
whispered to me conspiratorially, “See this unattended bag?” Looking at
the literati gathered on stage—which included The New Yorker’s Ben Greenman, former sex scribe Amy Sohn and pill-popping memoirist Joshua Lyon—Edson uttered
the unthinkable: “Someone who wanted to destroy downtown culture could
just…it could be a neutron bomb!”The gangly, bespectacled hipster
bouncer slid it underneath a nearby booth and everyone breathed easier.
Wilson sprinted up to the stage and launched into a reading
about the buying habits of plutocratic I-Bankers with an intonation
eerily reminiscent of Ed Wood in Plan 9 From Outer Space.There were
plenty of chuckles, and the judges were impressed, especially
dimple-cheeked Park Slope mom ne plus ultra Sohn. She flipped her
chestnut curls and gushed at Wilson, “Your ass looks great.”Then she
added something in French.
A few minutes later, the fine-featured emcee announced Wilson as the winner, and she came striding off the stage victoriously.
arms were raised up high as a fist-shaped medal was glinting over her
neckline. The next morning, the Caligula for President author updated
her Facebook status to read, “Cintra Wilson is STOKED TO HAVE KILLED
AND EATEN ALL COMPETITORS.”