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NYC, Ep. 27

June 17, 2010 — Brilliance reigned supreme at New York City's 27th-ever Literary Death Match, as four heavyweights slugged it out at Bowery Poetry Club, with The Rumpus founding editor Stephen Elliott out Card Shark'd co-finalist Rakesh Satyal by a final score of 2-1, avenging his LDM first-round knockout 90 episodes ago in San Francisco, and claiming the LDM crown. 

But before the first playing card was flipped, the night kicked off with a masterful first round that began with TED brillianteur and 2.0 poet Rives leading off with an iPad-based sing-a-long with his right hand (video to come!) followed by a emoticon-based piece that had the audience awed and aww-ing. Then Elliott took to the mic, telling a sordid tale from the wildly praised The Aderall Diaries that took the judges and crowd by quiet storm. 

The mic was then handed over to the trio of brilliant judges: New Yorker editor Ben Greenman (author of the forthcoming What He's Poised to Do), author/actor Michael Boatman (starring in Arli$$/Spin City and the author of the story collection God Laughs When You Die), and comedian Becky Yamamoto. The three let the levity pour — Greenman even judging in rhyme (so he says) — before finally announcing, "This is the closest first round of LDM that I’ve judged. But by the narrowest micron on a testicle it’s Stephen Elliot." 

After a speedy intermission, host Todd Zuniga opened up Round 2, which started with a phenomenal bang, with Satyal (the author of Blue Boy) reading a pitch-perfectly told piece about  The Golden Girls Rue McClanahan. Up next was award-winning author Allison Amend (Things that Pass for Love; Stations West) who skewed pornographic. Her reading went beyond the seven-minute time limit, causing the timekeeper to repeatedly shoot Greenman with Nerf darts — which gave space for Amend's plea, about her story's main character, "You're not going to let her orgasm?"

The judges were once again tested, Greenman's snark followed by Boatman's cleverness, followed by Yamamoto's comedic pokes. When the judging was all said and done, Yamamoto announced that oh-so-narrowly, Satyal was the night's second finalist. 

Then came the finale. Satyal went first against Elliott in a Card Sharks battle that saw different NYC authors on playing cards. After a first round, in which the higher/lower plays went neither contenders way (both exited with no points), Satyal scored first in the second round, but opted to stop after scoring a lone point. Elliott counter-punched with two points before calling it quits, setting up a dramatic third, and final round. Knowing he needed two points to take the lead, Satyal scored quickly, when the king (Don DeLillo) followed a low card, but with the game on the line, and a shouted choice of lower, it was Ace Joan Didion that gave Elliott the victory by a final score of 2-1. A dramatic finish to a brilliant evening. 

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