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Saturday
Mar142009

Beijing, Ep. 1

March 14, 2009—The first-ever international Literary Death Match, held before a fun and rowdy crowd at The Bookworm in Beijing, China, was a global dream come true, as award-winning Scottish poet Liz Niven outdueled the dynamic Zachary Mexico in a three-tiered competition that finished with Niven scoring the night’s last points on the final challenge: “Gently Rub a Chopstick on Beijing!” Niven, the first international to call herself champion, wore the medal proudly. 

The milestone 30th-ever LDM started with a bang as James West (representing Australia) led off the proceedings with a stirring, short reading from his book, Beijing Blur, luring the audience to participate with a steady stream of ooh’s and ahh’s after each sexually charged moment. Next came Niven (Scotland), who kept the crowd roaring with a series of three poems that ranged in content from brogueish nonsense to the google.com results of William Wallace.

Zachary Mexico wins the crowd and the judges (from left: Leary, Foster, Hyde)

The judges, Jen Hyde (Small Anchor Press), Ben Foster (G2 Studios) and John Leary (fiction writer featured in Opium4, Opium1), had a tough decision to make, a choice that had them huddled for an extended period, but ultimately decided Niven would go on to be the night’s first finalist.

After an 11-second intermission, Round 2 began with haste, as best-selling novelist and children’s book writer Ridley Pearson (midwest USA) came to the stage to face off against Zachary Mexico (northeast USA), the author of China Underground. After a “coinflip” featuring a Hutong tea ball, Mexico elected to read second, leaving Pearson to lead-off. With a captivating spirit Pearson untangled a brilliant yarn, the crowd hushed with attention, as he whipped through his slim stack of pages. Next came Mexico, a style completely different from Pearson’s--instead of standing still, he prowled around the stage as he read, book bent open in his hand, eliciting ooh’s and ahh’s of his own with a tawdry tale of an undercover version of China rarely seen. 

The judges were once again flummoxed when it came time to decide a winner, loving Mexico’s brash style, Pearson’s steady narrative, the crowd reacting with equal glee to both reader. In the end, though, intangibles judge Leary spoke for the panel, deciding finally, “It was a toss-up, so we decided: who is more American? And what’s more American, than the name ‘Zachary Mexico.’” The gallery roared with delight.

Finally, Niven and Mexico took to the stage for a finale that spanned the entire Bookworm International Literary Festival, showcasing elements from each of the festivals three cities. For starters, the competitors were asked to down three tea shots (representing the relaxation of Suzhou). Mexico took a 1-0 lead when he burned through the three shots in seconds, while Niven paused after half of only one. The night’s second challenge, worth three points, was Find the Panda (representing Chengdu). Niven led off by overturning the first of five tea cups, but came up empty. After only one guess, Mexico, channeling the energy of the crowd, uncovered the panda (represented by a Hutong tea ball, as the panda key chain was mysteriously MIA).

All this led to the night’s final showdown, a five-point stabstravaganza that showcased a toned-down version of the LDM-original “Stab a Hole in Nebraska!” To be respectful of China, LDM Beijing, Ep. 1 concluded with “Gently Rub a Chopstick on Beijing!” After Mexico came close with his gentle rub attempt (that massaged China’s southwest), Niven was able to narrowly snare victory with her poke that chafed China’s northern regions. In the end, her effort was narrowly nearer to Beijing, meaning she claimed victory for her mother Scotland.

See all the photos from this event here!

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