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Like so many in the Thursday night short story workshop, Nick Franciose is one of the members who’s graced with a natural talent for the short story. His verbal acuity is ferocious. So this is what we did: we sent Nick Franciose out to represent Lighthouse at Denver’s second Literary Death Match.
For those of you unfamiliar with the LDM, it’s an international sensation, led by the tireless and satellitically haired Todd Zuniga, who manages both air travel and witty repartee on a daily basis. A regular diet of either would exhaust yours truly, but not this guy. He does it, he tweets it, he moves on. So, after he promised us laughs and ribaldry, many Lighthousers and other literary types packed into Forest Room 5 on Wednesday night, hungry for a showdown.
The evening did not disappoint. Battling it out were two fiction writers—Nick for Lighthouse and Sharon McGill for Opium Magazine, and two poets—Jessy Randall (A Day in Boyland) for Ghost Road and Nicky Beer for Copper Nickel magazine. All, it should be noted, were cute as buttons. That they also oozed talent was a bonus.
The short summary is that Sharon McGill wowed the crowd with mention of mediocre sex in the kitchen, an image that haunted the judges (poet Chris Ransick, nf writer Curtis Pesman, and the dynamite Tara Anderson) for the entire night ; Franciose floored them with his tale of a law school dropout who wakes up in drag in the back of a police cruiser; Randall had us all in fits of giggles with various poems about the haplessly lovestruck and men-as-dawgs and whatnot, finishing with the swashbuckling “Unt Not Invent System.” Nicky Beer had us at “perineum” but continued to bewitch us with her rollicking, smart poetry.
The two finalists were Randall and our own Franciose. Because there’s no video of Nick’s performance, let me just give you this taste, from his opening:
Coming out of blackout is like emerging from a fugue state; one second you’re hunched over staring unperceivingly at your crotch, your head lolling with the movements of the police cruiser, and the next, consciousness returns to you and an ocean of worldly particulars rushes at your senses. On TV you once saw a team of marine researchers attach weights to a life-sized Styrofoam head and lower it on a cable into an ocean trench. When they pulled the head back up the tremendous pressures had squeezed it, preserving the proportions perfectly, to the size of a plum. That’s what your head feels like, like ocean tonnage and compacted Styrofoam—and like a plum, the flesh gray and sweet with bruise.
–From Nick Franciose’s “Foreclosure”
‘Nuff said about our guy. He killed the crowd. (Thanks also to the Lighthouse Scream Team—we are not above it, though such premeditated hollering is annoying/offensive/cruel at graduations, it’s required at duels-to-the-death.) We had already guessed this wouldn’t be a typical reading when the young woman with the hula hoop showed up, and you can hear a great summary of the Franciose siblings’ virtuosity in the writing and hula hooping world here (scroll down the comments to see Papa Franciose’s wry, off-the-wall and allusion-studded note—it explains a lot about the Francoise talent pool).
As they often say, it’s not who wins or loses, but how strong the drinks are during the performance. What a fun night, all, and looking forward to the November Literary Death Match. More to come on that.