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Wednesday
Oct102012

SF, Ep. 48 (at Litquake)

October 11, 2012 — Literary Death Match's return to Litquake was a riot on repeat, a brilliant night at Beatbox, celebrating Simon Rich's brilliant new novel What in God's Namethat ended with Team Simon Rich toppling Team Tim "Toaster" Henderson in a hotly contested Name that Literary Tune matchup by a final score of 8-6 to win Rich the Literary Death Match Litquake crown. 

The omens came in fistfuls. The Giants beat the Reds. Biden “bodied” Ryan. The rain stopped. it was Litquake, it was Literary Death Match at Litquake, free books were handed out at the door, a disco cube spiraled above the audience and executive producer Alia Volz's dress matched. 

About as subtle as opening up an event with Canadian jokes.

Enter LDM founder Adrian Todd Zuniga, who pledged to make the end of the show feel like an SNL episode, though presumably with the audience still awake. Our judges: literary merit expert Adam Mansbach of Go the F*#k to Sleep brilliance (and the author of the novels The End of the Jews and Angry Black White Boy), who regaled the crowd with Andre the Giant factoids and a heavy Boston accent; acclaimed poet D.A. Powell (author of Chronic, and By Myself: An Autobiography (with David Trinidad)) for performance, who tactfully decided to wear his medal from a previous LDM victory, but not his crown; and Caitlin Gill, wunderwoman and zingerslinger, on intangibles. With a healthy exhortation from executive producerAlia “Amelia” Volz to support young, energetic literature, and a series of exercises with scraps of paper, the games began.

Rakesh Satyal, author of Lambda-award winning novel Blue Boy, unleashed a neutron bomb of social commentary with his impassioned appreciation of Taylor Swift, asking profoundly “what do people want from her?” and achieving crescendo with a karaoke-and-jazz-hands finale. Reciting without notes, artist Tim “Toaster” Henderson began with a rousing discourse on modern worklife—think “The Office” meets slam poetry, plus tequila—and brought it home with a celebration of Martin Luther King that reminded us that while multiracial couples signify a social victory, white rappers and black cops are still a little weird.

Mansbach saluted Satyal’s self-echoing skillz and smart Castro-meets-Cosby attire; Powell confessed that he found Satyal’s piece so compelling he was planning to look up Taylor Swift on the YouTube; and Gill trumpeted Satyal’s improbable sweater crease. As for Henderson, Mansbach overcame a rabid hatred of poetry to declare the reading “extra crispy”; Powell lauded the selections as “fiery and breathtaking”; and Gill declared she wanted to lick melted butter off his toasty body. After a few minutes and a ding, Henderson popped up the winner.

In the second half, Simon Rich (author of What in God's Name and Ant Farm), comedy writer extraordinaire, delivered a chuckle-packed redo of the Bible’s creation story told Reality Bites-style, followed up with a hump-laden canine take on Craigslist Missed Connections. Amelia Gray, author of the novel Threats (longlisted for the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize), closed the set with a searing take on unexpected pregnancy, burning donuts, Houston-dodging road trips and the improbable quest for love at celebrity murder sites.

Mansbach lauded Rich’s choice of back-to-back stories on palindromic subjects; after a brief aside declaring war on the concept of sentences, Powell graded the performance “nebbishy” and “charming”; Gill continued Rich’s first piece with an impresario freestyle imagining Part 2, and lo it was good. For Gray, Mansbach declared her reading “lyrical, haunting, yet fucked up,” while Powell divulged that Patty Hearst had been held captive in his (surprisingly large) closet and Gill lamented the tragedy of burnt donuts. Proving again that dogs are the best, Rich squeaked through to the finals.

In a finish that blended Name That Tune for hipsters and an old-fashioned footrace, Rich eked out the championship to the strains of Dolly Parton. The champion was hoisted on shoulders, the audience overflowed the stage, applause thundered, and still two days of Litquake to go. Somewhere, Lorne Michaels is smiling.

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