December 9, 2008
Literary Smackdown Revisited
The Literary Trivia Smackdown 2.0, which pitted PEN vs. Lit Bloggers, was the ultimate event at the Twenty-first Annual Indie and Small Press Book Fair this past weekend. And a lively literary contest it was, nimbly emceed by the ironically tuxedoed and erudite author Tim W. Brown. PEN won, 16-13, I think, but I’m not entirely sure; making our way around nearly a hundred and fifty literature-strewn tables of indie presses—whose names reminded me at times of a flock of unruly reindeer: Archipelago, Dream Weaver, Fractious, Leapfrog, Luminus, Olympia, Persea, Rainbow Star, Sephyrus, Whirlwind, Windspur, just to name a few—was so dizzying in its multiplicity that a New Yorker colleague and I had to pop across the street to a Greek taverna for fortification.
The questions came hard and fast, and were of such graduate-school caliber—the name of Don DeLillo’s only play or Washington Irving’s house or the author of the first slave narrative—that not even the lifelines to audience and adjudicator helped the impressive contestants. We were, all in all, relieved that the Book Bench bloggers hadn’t been asked to participate. Nonetheless, there was one question neither team got that my less-addled colleague did: what writer was the inspiration for the Brandy Alexander? The Lit Bloggers suggested Alexander Pope; PEN parried with Alexandre Dumas (or perhaps it was the other way around). The answer: the New Yorker writer and Round Tablist Alexander Woollcott.
Except that, on sober reflection, this seems to be just another apocryphal urban legend, signifying sound and fury, at least if the Brandy Alexander entry on Wikepedia (which may prove to be the future of publishing) is to be believed. Therein we are told:“Drama critic/celebrity Alexander Woollcott was very fond of this drink, and he encouraged the assumption that it was named after him. (The actual origin of the drink’s name is unknown.)”
In the literary smackdown’s wake, another colleague and I ventured a couple of blocks west to do some literary slurping, I mean sleuthing, at the Algonquin. For those at home interested in keeping up with literary tradition, here is a recipe for the immortally named concoction, whomever the hell it’s named after:
May we suggest a revised question for Literary Trivia Smackdown 3.0: what chocolatey cocktail is one of the main characters in Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Invisible Monsters” named after?
Posted by Vicky RaabIn
The Book Bench
| Literary Smackdown