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LA, Ep. 12

August 9, 2012 — Before a jam-packed and wily house at Busby's East, a gem-filled and hilarious night celebrating the launch of Simon Rich's new novel took a sharp turn towards the moving, and ended with Sarah Thyre's proxy Isaac outdueling Oriana Small (a.k.a. Ashley Blue, author of Girlvert) in an Olympic-themed Literary Triathlon that won Thyre the LDM LA, Ep. 12 crown. 

But before the Olympic-scale finale was even a thought, the night kicked off with Sarah Thyre (author of Dark at the Roots: A Memoir and a Strangers with Candy co-star) reading about what it feels like to have your two best friends dying — in this case beloved author David Rakoff — and how it makes you “get your rage on hard.” Next up was the foot-stompingly funny Emmy award-nominated TV writer/novelist Steve Hely (author of How I Became a Famous Novelist), who read an excerpt from his book about attending a writing class to learn how to write…and discovering soft-core porn instead.

The mic was then turned over to the night's trio of all-star judges, including Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold (recipient of three James Beard Journalism Awards in 2012), OK Go's bassist/vocalist Timothy Nordwind, and comedian/everyone's-latest-crush Michelle Buteau. About Thyre, Gold admitted cancer comedy is hard, but that Thyre did it the only way possible. And with amazing wave imagery to boot, while Nordwind praised her "awesome mic control" and loved the physicality of the performance — especially the gripping of the mic during  the description of penises. Buteau chimed in saying Sarah was "cute as hell," the way she talked about cancer in high heels. "I guess cancer is the new black?" About Hely, Gold said that, as far as he could tell, this was about a writer assessing a writer assessing a writer assessing a writer. The levels of meta crashed the earth, while Nordwind said it was a focused performance—especially the description of the “spaghetti hamsterface” writing teacher. Beateau quipped that she would buy a used car from Hely, and admonished his wonderful anxiety. 

After a difficult deliberation, the Nordwind announced the round's winner: Steve Hely! No, wait! Sarah Thyre! Momentary confusion reigned, but it was in fact Thyre that was the Round 1 winner. 

Round 2 commenced with Oriana Small (a.k.a. Ashley Blue) reading from her porno memoir Girlvert, in which she recalled dirty sex at the Luxor in dirty Vegas when her boyfriend made her buy him a prostitute (who was just as dirty) for him. Next up was Vermin on the Mount curator/fiction mastermind Jim Ruland (author of Big Lonesome) who read about a young naval officer stationed overseas in Vietnam who had found the Holy Grail: 100 joints for $100.

Again the judges were in the spotlight, with Gold saying of Small's piece that it was "the single best letter ever written to Dan Savage," while Nordwind said how much the crowd loved her, that they were begging for more, especially by ending on the line “the hooker wouldn’t suck his dick.” He then wondered aloud, "And why don’t hookers take credit cards?" Finally, Buteau said Small's story answered the eternal relationship question: what to do when your boyfriend wants you to buy a hooker for him? About Ruland, Gold loved the story's rhythm, while Nordwind said: "You sold it! I was right there with you. 100 joints for $100!" Buteau finished things off, saying it reminded her of an episode of Breaking Bad tweeted live. 

Again, another difficult decision was to be made, and after long discussion, the judges emerged from their huddle to name Small the Round 2 champ. 

Then came the epic finale, which was twinged in heartache: host and LDM creator Todd Zuniga started off the Olympic proceedings by explaining that only minutes after Thyre read what he called "Thyre's love letter to David Rakoff" that Rakoff had passed away. He then welcomed Jill Soloway's (a past LDM judge) son Isaac to stand-in for Thyre. Then a pair of volunteers were brought on stage, and paired with the finalists. Then the literary triathlong kicked off, first with a book shootput/discus throw that Small won with ease. Next up, was a Synchronized Reading, in which the finalists and their teammates were asked to simultaneously act out a Miranda July book excerpt while being judged by audience members. Isaac/Team Thyre's 9.1 outdid Small's 8.6 average scores. Then came the tie-breaker: Literary Archery, in which each finalist had two shots at hitting the Paul Bauer bullseye (Bauer was the gold medalist in literature — yep, for real! — in the 1932 LA Olympics). Isaac's initial shot was cosmically guided by the hand of Rakoff, according to Zuniga, as it was as close to the center as possible. Small had two shots to play catch-up, but it was Isaac/Team Thyre who won it all in the end, winning Thyre not only the Literary Death Match LA crown, but literary immortality to go with it. 

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