August 31, 2010 — The Literary Death Match's long-awaited (by us) return to China and The Bookworm Beijing was nothing short of masterwork, with the brilliant night finishing with a fake mustache/chopstick/cheap toy/basketball shootout finale that saw One Story representative John Leary claim a 3-1, closer-than-the-scoreboard-suggests victory over co-finalist and Shiva Naipaul prize-winner James Palmer. While the crowd cheered ecstatically, Leary was crowned victor.
But well before the first cheap toy was raised with wooden chopsticks, the night kicked off with Leary leading off against fellow first-rounder (and mini-media mogul/co-founder of That's magazine) Mark Kitto — author of China Cuckoo. Leary skewed death-defying, a tale about how he'd like to die versus how he was likely to die. Then up stepped Kitto, who read a gently brilliant excerpt about the whore we call Shanghai.
The mic was then turned over to the threesome of all-star judges, including Gady Epstein (Forbes.com), Elyse Ribbons (Cheeky Monkey) and heavy metal guitarist Kaiser Kuo. Epstein found both readings excellent, but couldn't believe there was nothing in the way of pre-event bribery, which brought Kitto to the stage, handing out ¥1 notes to Epstein and Kuo. But the pay off was too little, too late, said the judges, and Leary was announced the night's first finalist.
After a booze-fueled intermission, the night continued with a second round that had the audience in throes of titillation, with host Todd Zuniga inviting Susan Barker (The Orientalist and the Ghost) and Palmer to the stage. Barker led off with tawdry, euphimism-filled and perfectly performed piece that included phrases like "pushing the boat upstream" (for anal sex), and a load of other gems. After, an audience member even chided "good luck!" to Palmer, who had the deck stacked against him. But he would not be denied — his thoughtful and bending piece about ethnic minorities took everyone by storm, leaving the judges with an impossible decision. While Barker's piece sent Ribbons into a When Harry Met Sally Meets LDM (fake?) orgasmic fit, it was Palmer who was announced as the night's second finalist.
Then came the finale, which tasked Leary and Palmer with picking up a host of figurines, and launching them, with chopsticks, into a basketball hoop from distance — all while wearing fake mustaches. Leary jetted out to a quick 1-0 lead, before Palmer tied it. The crowd roared as Leary fired in a second shot, Palmer airtoying his next shots, and then with only one toy on the table, a virtual free-throw for Leary, he sunk the winning shot, sending himself to victory, giving him the Literary Death Match crown, and making him and his literary efforts forever immortal.