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NYC, Ep. 43

September 13, 2012 — On a brilliant night presented by Electric Literature, Literary Death Match made an epic return to Le Poisson Rouge for a Fiction-v.-Nonfiction showdown which ended in a raucous finale that saw Team Jason Diamond narrowly outmatch Team Courtney Maum in a hotly contested Pin the Mustache on Hemingway finish, winning Diamond the Literary Death Match NYC crown. 

 But before Hemingway was unveiled, the evening kicked off with hand-picked Electric Literature reader-representative Matt Sumell, who read a story about trying to raise a baby bird into a badass predator fearsome enough to "make Asian people wear surgical masks." Vol. 1 Brooklyn founder Diamond followed with a reflection on his upcoming ten-year college reunion. ("Spoiler," he quipped, "I'm not going.") 

The mic was then passed to the night's trio of all-star judges: Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at GoatsThe Psychopath Test, and the upcoming Lost At Sea), the scintillating author/cultural critic/TV personality Touré (co-author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness? and the essay collection Never Drank the Kool-Aid), and Last Comic Standing semifinalist Jamie Lee (one of the "Top 18 Women You Should Be Following On Twitter"). Touré expressed his approval for Sumell's "swagger hair," calling it "very Chris Isaak," but added that he was forced to deduct points because Sumell was drinking a Bud Light. Lee said she'd keep Sumell's bird of prey in mind on her upcoming trip to the Natural History Museum, and Ronson said he greatly enjoyed the story, "and empathized with the animal sex." 

Then they turned their attention to Diamond, and Lee wondered: "What douchebag looks forward to their class reunion?" Ronson empathized with Diamond's reluctance to see his former classmates, and shared a story of writing to his own former high school bully to gleefully inform him that he'd become a bestselling author. With all this talk of school bullies, Touré wondered if Mitt Romney might have been present — and added that, while he'd enjoyed Diamond's piece, he had to deduct points for his loafers.

The judges deliberated, and after what Touré described as a "virtual fistfight — though nobody touched the lady," Diamond was proclaimed the winner of the round.

After a quick, boozy intermission, the second round kicked off with BOMB Magazine rep Courtney Maum, who read a haunting story from the point of view of an aborted fetus. Following her, representing The Atavist, Tina Rosenberg read a piece about Dennis Wheatley, the WWII-era British writer whose spy novels led him to a real-life career in wartime espionage. 

The mic was returned to the judges, and Ronson admired the ethereal, "Carveresque" quality of Maum's writing. Touré added that, being pro-choice, Maum's piece raised an interesting ethical dilemma. Lee praised the musicality of Maum's voice and wondered if she might also be a singer — and, she added, "I want whoever does your hair to do my hair."

About Rosenberg, Ronson wondered why a government would take military advice from a writer — "We don't know anything," he quipped. Touré praised Rosenberg's excellent vocal attack, saying that it seemed as though she was "living in the words." Lee appreciated that Rosenberg had presented a true story, and noted that she might have paid attention in school had Rosenberg been her teacher.

Again the judges deliberated, and Lee confessed that trying to decide between the two was like comparing apples and oranges. ("Apples and spaceships," Touré corrected.) A decision had to be made, however, and Maum was declared the winner.

In the nailbiting Literary Death Match finale, LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga chose four audience members to join Diamond and Maum onstage to "Pin the Mustache on Hemingway." Blindfolded, the volunteers took turns pinning famous mustaches (James Joyce! William Faulkner!) onto a giant poster of Hemingway. Finally it came down to Diamond and Maum themselves, and after Maum missed by a spectacular margin, Diamond locked his mustache onto the literary master like a heat-seeking missile, winning not only the LDM NYC, Ep. 43 medal, but literary immortality to go with it. 

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