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LA, Ep. 5

January 26, 2012 — On a downright magical night, Literary Death Match declared LA its home before a jam-packed house at Busby's East, followed by a nonstop series of hilarity, tenderness, fabulism, wordplay and beyond, which finished with Matthew Specktor nipping Ben Loory in a literary spelling bee by a razor-close margin, nailing "Ondaatje" to give him a 17-16 lead, and the LDM LA, Ep. 5 crown. 

The audience was groomed for action by hosts Melinda Hill and LDM creator-philosopher Todd Zuniga, who lit up the stage with a to-and-fro chemistry not unreminiscent of Sonny and Cher, or any other successful double act in recent memory. Zuniga introduced the gaping multitudes to the judges: five-time Emmy winner Chris Regan (writer for The Daily Show, author of Mass Historia and co-author of America (The Book)), Twitter hilaritrist Megan Amram, and the hysterically funny actor/stand-up Natasha Leggero (from He's Just Not that Into You and Ugly Americans). They parleyed confidently about bald eagles, Stieg Larsson, and the Twitter/Ulysses nexus.

Round one went like this: The Los Angeles Review of Books' senior editor Matthew Specktor (author of That Summertime Sound), told an elegiac, crepusculean yarn about Old Los Angeles, in which consoling a vomiting George Clooney in the bathroom of a cavernous boozer called The Hamlet became an emblem of Specktor’s own nostalgia (appreciative rather than brooding) for a city in decay. Closely behind (wink) was creator of Dirty Laundry Lit and PEN Emerging Voices Alum Natashia Deón, who changed the tone for the steamier with her lusciously-performed diary entry of a 19th century imp recollecting an ecstatic-epiphanic sex encounter with a fragrant travelling salesman, hung like an ox (so we imagine). We all marveled at her ability to transmit to the audience that spine-altering thrill of letting a stranger in, for the ‘stretching’ of her ‘potential’. For Specktor, the judges were appreciative rather than brooding for his ‘geographical accuracy’ and his shout out to ‘burgers.' For Deón, the judges mentioned Michael York, which was an unwelcome juxtaposition, everyone agreed. After a long deliberation, and several coinflips, it was decided that Specktor would move on as the night's first finalist. 

After a boozy intermission, the second round was not dissimilar in format: LA native Edan Lepucki (author of If You’re Not Yet Like Me and founder of Writing Workshops Los Angeles) read a story that was a vehicle for chronologic speculation, set in the future as a flashback. Her hero, Cal, an agreeable sponge, ‘lost in the past’, ruminated on humanity’s gadget-dependency. The crowd was stimulated mentally by the novel idea that, instead of propelling the human mind into the future, technology’s exponential rate of progress had induced a kind of accelerated reminiscence of times gone by, and a longing for the slowness of the past. Last and by no stretch of the imagination least was short-fictionist Ben Loory (author of Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day, named one of the 10 Best Fiction Books of 2011) who capped off a seminal evening with the sublime, beautiful and riddikulus tale of a duck who falls in love with a rock, which produced in the seated throngs an unprecedented amount of pleasure from the otherwise underpublicized subject of duck-on-rock relations. Who knew the word ‘salamander’ could be so moving? About Lepucki, the judges begged for notes on her workout regimen, as fans of her legs, and Amram hysterically announced the Lepucki's skin was the same color as her hair. About Loory, the judges were decidedly touchy on the subject of inter-gallinageological procreation. Facing yet another impossible decision, Loory was selected as the night's second finalist. 

Finally it was finale time, and time to separate the wheat from the dyslexic, with the evening’s spelling bee. How many weird names does the literary world contain? M.A.N.Y. As was proved by the incessant reel of Hoeuellebeckqs (sp?) and Pallanihiuqks (sp?) that were now offered up to the alphabetic apprehension of our guests. In the end it was Matthew Specktor who was able to flaunt a prowess in lexical rectitude rarely seen, and who proved himself the undisputed champion of the evening, if by only a point, winning the LDM crown, and literary immortality to go with it.

Writeup by Luke Haskard. 

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