Performance vs. Print: A Review of Bare-KnucKled Lit

bare knucklePerformance:

Write Club exists as a spectator sport. It’s a fast, exciting, requires participation to choose a winner, and the wins matter—money goes to the victor’s chosen charity. Besides, there’s something about being there that makes a difference. There’s something about feeling the energy of a crowd, there’s something about feeling fifty other people fall in love with a story just as hard as you did.

The stories themselves are special, too. Write Club isn’t just another reading series in an endless stream of reading series. Write Club is head-to-head and the writing reflects the competitive nature. Very frequently, the competitors write for the performance. They write with word play and very specific emphasis and they write casually and the majority of what makes the piece work is the performance itself.

Sure, some people might think that good writing can exist in any medium. Those people are fools. Print is ok. Print is fine. But it doesn’t capture the same spirit of performance. Sure, Bare-Knuckled Lit does what it can, bringing in the same voting at the end of each printed  bout, and yeah, the bouts are presented with the same in-you-face font that comes straight from the performances themselves. And sure, reading them in print feels as close as you could get to being there, but with the added bonus of being able to access them on your own time. But there’s something missing. That feeling of being at the performance.

Thank you.


Throughout history, we have been working tirelessly to improve the way things are printed. All the way back to the Gutenberg’s printing press straight on through the Kindle, we’ve been looking for ways to enjoy things through print. Performance is ok, but performance is a fleeting moment. Performance is an exciting night, but when it ends, it ends. There’s nothing you can do to recreate fully that moment. But print? Print is permanent. Print can be revisited again and again and again.

Bare-Knuckled-Lit takes an impermanent moment, takes a fleeting moment and pins it down, turns it into a concrete piece of history. The Write Club anthology does more than just exist as another medium to deliver its brain punchery. It’s a new take on a classic idea. It pushes print into yet another new direction, turning the book into an interactive experience that you can revisit and recreate ad nauseum, forever.

That’s not to say that each printed story is perfect. In a book containing 24 stories, that would be impossible. But the stories that shine (Dani Herd’s “Full” and Samantha Irby’s poem about waxing her vagina, “Rough”) are just like those flimsy, fleeting performance. They hit and don’t let go. But unlike a performance, they remain right there in your hand for you to revisit over and over.

So while you vote for your favorite, while you decide between the magic of PRINT or the fleetingness of PERFORMANCE, keep in mind, Bare-Knuckled Lit is some print that bridges the gap.

4.5/5 stars

Bare-Knuckled Lit, 2014 Hope and Nonthings. $15

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