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LDM TV: LA, Ep. 17

12/12/12 — Here’s what a LDM TV: The Pilot (a.k.a. "The Greatest Night in Literary History") looks like: regulation boxing ring, smoke machine, an amped crowd of 450, a guy in a weird Oriental-patterned suit, and a full bar. Oh, and a dream roster of talent — judges Jonathan Lethem, Michael C. Hall, and Tig Notaro, and four crazy talented and diverse readers. Here we go! 

Creator/host Adrian Todd Zuniga summons the Round 1 readers: DC Pierson and Tracy McMillan (both past LDM LA champs) — into the ring, and lays down the rules. “No plagiarism; if you mean coincidence, don’t say ironic; if you read over three and a half minutes, copies of Infinite Jest will rain down and crush us all. Are you ready? Shake hands. Now go back to your corners, and when I call your name, I want you to come out reading.”

Pierson (The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To; Mystery TeamDERRICK) reads first, a love letter to “all the aliens who got stranded on Earth but never found kids to take care of them.” On Pierson’s Literary Merit, Lethem (Motherless BrooklynThe Fortress of Solitude) says he’s “like Walt Whitman meeting Arthur C. Clark.” Hall (Dexter; Six Feet Under), judging Performance, commented on Pierson’s “strong hair, very strong hair,” and Notaro (Live; Good One), Intangibles judge, exclaims, “you seem completely out of your mind” while doing an uncannily good impression of Pierson’s open-mouthed listening face. 

McMillan (Why You're Not Married...Yet)is up next, ranting on the myth of casual sex — “it’s like recreational heroin: it doesn’t stay recreational for long.” Lethem says he “was given a vision of the infinite from this piece.” Hall felt “Implicated…I kept imagining one of your long legs coming up and kicking a phantom man in the head. This is probably about me.” Notaro ponders about why more women haven’t tried to have one-night stands with McMillan. 

The judges deliberate and crown Pierson the winner of Round 1. 

In the Round 2, we have fiction extraordinaire Daniel Alarcón, and up-and-coming poetess Adrian Wyatt

Alarcón (Lost City Radio; The Secret Miracle; a New Yorker "20 Under 40") reads first, a prose piece about dating Abraham Lincoln — “In the mornings I would comb out his beard for him, softly, always softly, and Lincoln would purr like a cat.” Lethem says Alarcón’s story was “a real vision of what Greil Marcus calls ‘the weird old America,’” and mentions that it made him think of “an epic Bob Dylan song.” Hall states that Alarcón's version of Lincoln is, “nothing like the movie” and muses that, “Lincoln is a great name for a cat.” Notaro marvels at Alarcón's easy yet commanding comportment: “I love how you just read your stuff, drop a page, read some more stuff, drop more pages…You probably want to roll your eyes at me right now, but I’m telling you, I was just like ‘aaaawww yeah! I hope this is ten pages long!’” 

Wyatt (featured in the Write Bloody zombie anthology Aim for the Head) takes the stage (or ring, rather) and performs a love/breakup poem about a zombie — “I hummed/ to your bone saw sonata and you tried scrape open my skull/with the muskrat cathedrals of your teeth./ I asked you again./What is it about me that makes you want me so much?” The applause is riotous when she finishes, the loudest of the evening. Lethem mentions that he wanted “to touch some of your words,” and that the poem “seemed to be a kind of laboratory for the visceral,” while otherwise being “almost pornographic…In fact, I think it was the zombie that saved it from an X-rating…otherwise I wouldn’t be able to address you while looking you in the face.” Hall says: “As I listened to the metaphors, the collage of images, I sometimes felt like something was blossoming out of my third eye. And at other times it was like being shot in the temple.” Notaro notes, simply, “I’m concerned about your dating life.”

The judges confer, Wyatt is crowned the winner, and Pierson joins her onstage for the finale: a Spell Binding/Pin the Mustache on Hemingway combination cluster f---- in which Pierson just scraps out a victory. He’s the champ! There’s a…holy shit! It’s a BELT! Everyone storms the stage! The crowd is going nuts, Wyatt falls over in mock exhaustion and despair, and Pierson goes on to win every literary award on the face of the Earth forever. Goodnight, Los Angeles. See you on TV! 

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