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Twin Cities, Ep. 3

March 1, 2011 — LDMs return to Minneapolis was greeted with sub-zero weather, but that didn't stop the literary die-hards who packed the sold-out Aster Cafe, and witnessed literary history when InDigest rep Brad Liening and his band of merry sitters outlasted Water~Stone Review rep Barrie Jean Borich in a wild session of Muzakal Chairs. The final score was 3 to 1, winning Liening the LDM crown. 

But before DJ Maggie Ryan Sandford spun her first Muzakal Chairs selection, the night kicked off with Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer's pick Matt Burgess (Dogfight, A Love Story) against Liening. Burgess went first, reeling off a fantastic piece about his teens — which featured VCRs, pornography and a dear friend who he's since lost touch. Liening (the author of Ghosts and Doppelgangers) followed with a brilliant reading of his dependent-on-how/where-he-dies will. 

The mic was then turned over to arbiters Jeff Kamin (producer of Books & Bars), Brave New Workshop's comedic mastermind Mike Fotis, and musicianess extraordinaire Ellen Stanley (Mother Banjo). Stanley enjoyed Burgess' use of a backpack prop (that, like in the story, boasted a copy of Playboy Magazine), but was glad he didn't replicate the masturbating that was also featured in the story. Kamin enjoyed Liening's "Winter's Bone" John Hawkes getup, that was Oscar-season appropriate, and Mike Fotis riffed a few crowd-titillating non-sequiturs before announcing both stories received "10 out of 10." After a difficult deliberation, the judges decided to select Liening — because he stayed within the seven-minute time limit — to advance as the night's first finalist. 

After a boozy intermission, the second round commenced with Stonewall Book Award-winner and Water~Stone Review rep Barrie Jean Borich (author of My Lesbian Husband) leading off against Nicole Helget (The Turtle Catcher). Borich came out guns blazing, first unraveling her dress and exposing her slip, before blazing through a fantastic piece — with select audience members pitching in — about her relationship with a gay man named Scottt (with three t's). Next up was Helget, who countered with a hilarious and moving and odd story about a woman and her many children, and the never-ending value of middle relievers like Pat Neshek. 

Again the judges were handed the mic, and again: verbal wizardry was delivered. Fotis admitted to his second "boner explosion" of the night over Borich's slip-props-iPad delivery, while Stanley praised Borich's boots. Kamin applauded Helget's delightful storytelling, and her choice to rave about a true, side-winding middle reliever. After another lengthy deliberation, the judges made the tough decision of advancing Borich to the finals. 

Then came the ultimate Muzakal Chairs challenge, where host Todd Zuniga riled the crowd for a finale that pitted Borich and a two-person team of audience volunteers against Liening's talented two-person sitting posse (that, ironically — considering his book title — included his doppelganger). The music began, and when it stopped, Liening was given the initial boot, and next to go was Borich. The finalists were out, but their teams battled hard, but Borich's team was no match for the plunk down skills of Liening's hand-picked selections. Liening team won him literature's most prestigious competitive live event prize by a score of 3 to 1, and delivered him literary immortality. 


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