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SF, Ep. 4

October 12, 2007 — Opium’s most outstanding Literary Death Match ever (SF, Episode 4) at Swedish American Hall featured the release of Opium5: Bad Company, riotous readings from literary superstars, a heckler and a whopping (and sightly) crowd of 370.

The extra-special Litquake edition of the LDM concluded with Daniel Handler (Opium) out-hooping Wesley Stace (Swink) in an edge-of-your-recliner finale in which each author shot baskets in front of a roaring crowd. In a game to five, Stace’s early 3-1 lead evaporated as Handler caught fire and swished four straight for an unbelievably thrilling come-from-behind victory.

Stace with dummy.
But well before the baskets were hung and the finalists did their best Allen Iverson impersonations, the wordsmithing had kicked off in a closely contested first-round that featured Evany Thomas (McSweeney’s) going up against Stace. Thomas went high risk, plopping her pages on a stool, and storytelling without a script--a bouncing narrative that charmed and surprised onlookers, and featured grandparents, racial slurs, and so many laugh-inducing moments, we lost count. Thomas was followed by the masterful Stace who plucked a dummy from a suitcase, set it (him?) center stage, and told the audience in a soothing British accent, “Look at him, but listen to me.” He then went on to read the beautifully crafted first chapter of his new novel, By George, which captivated 369 people, but there was one--a heckler--who insisted, “You’re reading not telling!” Shocked silence followed, as everyone wondered if the demanding, pretty shouter was a plant. In fact, she was not (seriously).

Once Stace was finished--with only one interruption--the microphone was handed over to a legendary set of judges, including long-time LDM literary merit judge Ben Greenman (New Yorker, and author of A Circle is a Balloon and a Compass Both), performance judge Shaun Landry (Oui Be Negroes) and Oscar Villalon (SF Chronicle) speaking to intangibles. Villalon put himself into LDM lore by speaking only in football metaphors--a genius performance that shamed ESPN analyst Mel Kiper. After a lengthy huddle, the difficult decision was made: Stace was named a finalist.

“Evany before me was so extremely funny that it made me nervous, because I knew that I was simply reading the first chapter from my novel,” said Stace. “But then I had George, the ventriloquist dummy, in my favour. My other secret weapon was a complete surprise: a heckler. If someone speaks out loud, pro or con, when I am playing music, I am quite happy to meet them thrust for thrust (as it were), but I was really into my reading, perhaps a little lost in my performance. The heckler, who was drunk, and under the mistaken impression that I was meant not to be reading from a book, was easily dispatched. She was forceful, repetitive, and not making a lot of sense. The next line in my text [after the heckler spoke out] was: ‘Nothing ever distracted him from his work.’ It really was. You couldn't make that up. The weird thing is that I have had a bundle of emails, all of which assumed that the heckler was a plant: I guess this is a tribute to my "showbiz know-how". And as Daniel Handler said: ‘If you could plant drunk young women wherever you wanted, it's hard to imagine you'd plant them in the audience of a death match.’” The Literary Death Match was a pleasure. For a fuller report, see my MySpace site.

After a booze-fueled intermission in which delicious 209 Gin was liberally splashed into plastic cups free of charge, round two featured a clash of SF titans, bringing Gary Kamiya (Salon) to the stage to battle Handler. Kamiya hypnotized the crowd with a North Beach story that proved to be the longest LDM reading ever (18 minutes!). But the crowd didn’t notice. “I was transfixed, completely,” said one crowd member. “I had no idea he had gone long.” Handler stepped to the podium and lulled the crowd into a literary trance with a selection from his novel Adverbs--“Yes, yes, oh, baby, yes”--and dazzled them with a line of dialogue so poignant, we won’t list it here. The judges struggled to come to a conclusion. After Handler threw a drink in his own face, he secured the necessary vote, and was selected to battle Stace in the finals.

Basketball hoops were then plucked from plastic bags, two too-tall audience members were chosen to assist in holding them on high, and the two finalists stood bottom-to-bottom and fired shots at opposite buckets. The first to make five (in celebration of Opium’s fifth print issue) would be crowned! The crowd ooh’d and ahh’d with every flick of the wrist. But the tide turned when it was announced that each contestant could take one step closer to their respective baskets. Handler indulged, while Stace didn’t hear the direction because of the electrified crowd. He stayed put, Handler took advantage. Seemingly lifted by his chanting supporters, he netted four unanswered scores to take the crown, the medal, and be adorned with the LDM Champion sash.

It was, no question, the fitting end to a stellar, flawless evening.

“Not only does it mean that I won an athletic competition for the first time in my life,” said Handler. “But the joy in my heart when I received a bitter, envious phone call from Doris Lessing will last me for the rest of my life. ‘I know I won the Nobel, but I deserved the Deathmatch crown, Handler. Blah, blah, blah, whiney whiney whine!’ Put that in your golden notebook, Doris.”

See all the photos from this event here!

References (1)

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  • Response
    Raleigh is the platform where the lots of people gathered and debate on different topics. The debates are the important part of the literature. Which facilitates the participants with knowledge and help them to justify the point of discussion with the possible logics.

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