April 8, 2011 — In a historic finale that Literary Death Match historians will debate for centuries to come, poets Monica Youn (Ignatz) and Dean Rader (Works & Days) simultaneously pieced together and recognized the famous face of Hunter S. Thompson, resulting in the first tie ever in San Francisco LDM history.
Literary aficionados crowded the Elbo Room, eager for ink to be spilt. Guest co-host comedian Will Franken was in the house, challenging the politically correct as only he can: by apologizing for forgetting that satire is only funny when directed at politically approved targets, such as Dick Cheney, and not "gender neutral hipsters."
The ever elegant host Alia Volz called the first round readers up to the stage. Internationally renowned cult novelist Kris Saknussemm seized the mike and immediately eschewed the text, tossing his books into the crowd. Possessed by the fire-and-brimstone spirit of his lineage, Saknussemm's monologue described the strange weight of growing up the great grandson of a randy prairie preacher. Rader, a local favorite and not about to be outdone, launched into a series of new poems "intended to be humorous." His arrow hit its mark, judging from the laughs from the crowd.
The judges -- a crack panel comprised of poet and former LDM champ Kim Addonizio (Tell Me), SF music denizen Anthony Bedard (Hank IV), and former candidate for San Francisco supervisor, Glendon Hyde a.k.a. Anna Conda -- did not cotton to Saknussemm's religious subject matter and handed the round to the deserving Rader.
After a libatious break, Round 2 kicked off with author Kim Wong Keltner (The Dim Sum of All Things) and Youn for Asian girl-on-girl action! (Youn: "Hmmm. I think my husband has this video.") Keltner took the toss but gamely ceded the first read. Former Stegner fellow Youn read from Ignatz, her poetry collection that plays on the classic Krazy Kat cartoon strip. Keltner followed with humorous but poignant excerpts from a memoir in-progress.
The judges faced a nearly impossible decision. They hemmed. They hawed. They flipped. They flopped. But ultimately Youn emerged victorious.
Host Volz summoned the winners to the stage for the final round. Youn and Rader took turns trying to piece together a chopped-up image of a renowned San Francisco author. As the image of a bald man with sunglasses and a cigarette holder gripped in a mischievous smile emerged, Youn and Rader looked at each other and together declared: Hunter S. Thompson.
To the victors went the spoils: a crown for Youn, a medal for Rader!
--by Andrew O. Dugas