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SF, Ep. 1

July 17, 2007—Opium’s Literary Death Match kicked off in San Francisco at Harlot with a huge bang, as Sam Hurwitt (Kitchen Sink) wowed the world--or at least the 160 onlookers--by toppling Canteen’s Joyce Maynard in a breathtaking game of Stab a Hole in Nebraska. Joyce’s joust sunk well south of the target, while Hurwitt stabbed a hole into Shenendoah, Iowa, just miles clear of the Nebraska state line.

Before the grand finale, the first round featured McSweeney’s rep Stephen Elliott versus Canteen’s Joyce Maynard. After winning the coinflip (actually the flipping of a CD, that Joyce called “playable side up”), Maynard elected to read second. Elliott led off with a love letter that brought constant titters from the crowd. Maynard followed with a breathtaking reading about falling in love with a man in prison. By a narrow margin (“because she had better legs” said incomparable judge Jon Wolanske of Killing My Lobster, who judged alongside the ineffable Beth Lisick (author of Everyone into the Pool), and Simon Cowell-esque ZYZZYVA editor, Howard Junker, Maynard was named the first-ever LDM SF finalist.

After a brief and completely uneventful intermission, round two kicked off with a twist: the hosts, Opium co-editors Elizabeth Koch and Todd Zuniga, completely forgot to flip the CD to decide who went first between Fiction Attic’s Michelle Richmond and Kitchen Sink’s Sam Hurwitt. The result: Richmond was introduced and swung onto stage with no preamble. She handled it expertly, spinning out a charged yarn about a barista. To close out the round, Hurwitt read a hilarious tale involving comic books. The judges (with Litquake co-founder Jack Boulware filling in for Junker), torn again to decide, narrowly selected Hurwitt the second-ever LDM SF finalist.

Hurwitt takes a stab at geography.For the finale, Hurwitt and Maynard were blindfolded with a tie from Beijing (where Opium held a reading in June 2006), and each took one stab at a huge map of the United States, aiming for Nebraska’s capital. Hurwitt impressed with his accuracy, gouging a nearly perfectly placed hole.

“Winning the first Literary Death Match in San Francisco makes me feel like a virgin, touched for the very first time,” said Hurwitt. “I dunno that I've ever had such a good time at a reading. It was surprisingly gratifying to find that all that time spent pinning tails on donkeys and pinata-bashing could prove so useful in my literary endeavors. Had I known that we were supposed to rumble with the judges, however, I would have brought my Mexican wrestling mask.”

Hurwitt also noted, “SF LDM sounds like some new sexual preference. Come to think of it, maybe it is.”

See all the photos from this event here!

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