LDM at Drom in NYC

1. Nozlee Samadzadeh, an editor at The Morning News, Miranda Popkey, who’s an editorial assistant at FSG, & reader/excellent speller Emily Gould. 2. Ben Greenman is doing very important, literary merit judge-type work.

Last night was Literary Death Match time in New York again, and I was stoked to head over to Drom in the East Village, which is LDM’s new venue. I’d never been to Drom before, and I was pretty impressed by it — large yet still maintaining an intimacy, fancy chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings, a waitstaff that weren’t nazis about their 2-items-to-sit-at-a-table policy. Definitely a far cry from some of the liquor-dispensing venues that also sit on Avenue A, since it didn’t smell like cheap beer, vomit, OR disinfectant. Alphabet City’s moving on up!

1.Lovely ladies Jessica Gross, who does stand-up, Nicole, Abby Kagle, who works at Oxford University Press, and Ana Maria, who works in digital blog publishing. 2. Judging that cock… Jon-Jon Goulian at the mic.

The LDM rules for you rookies: two readers are pitted against each other. Three judges make their comments on both readers, and then choose a finalist. This process is repeated one time, so four readers total are sharing their work. They are only allowed to read for seven minutes, and if they go over something bad happens to them. (This time they were shot by a Nerf disc gun.) After the two semi-finalists have been selected, they must compete against each other in some “WaCKy” contest that often has little to do with actual reading or writing, and this contest decides the winner. And, as host Todd Zuniga said, there would be more twists than Breaking Bad and more laughs than Community’s third season.

Jon-Jon Goulian won the coin toss, so he was the first reader. His piece would make a great bedtime story for your stepson, since it talked about underage homosexual teenage handjobs and dry humping. It also featured some very important sexual advice — be very, very gentle when handling someone’s balls — and compared ejaculation to baby vomit.

1. Emily Gould, who is not telling us about her past drug use. 2. Starlee Kine, who is telling us about her past drug use.

Emily Gould shared some writing about a jerk named Todd who had taken up running and used the term “play kissyface” as a euphemism for “fucking.” Towards the end of the piece the narrator suspected Todd of cheating on her and ingested two or three Klonopin. It ended on a cliffhanger, one that I will have to wait “eight million years” for the book to come out to see what happened.

Judge Ben Greenman (Literary Merit) said Goulian did a good job of juxtaposing the comic and the tragic, and he appreciated both his subversion of cliches as well as his use of the word “smidgen.” Judge Jessi Klein (Performance) said that it was rare to see someone so comfortable with saying the word cock that it made her uncomfortable with the word. She also said that he had the right look for it, which was sexy/creepy, like “Jordan Catalano and mixed with someone on the sex registry.” Judge Gabriel Delahaye (Intangibles) liked that Goulian was wearing bell bottoms, because people in the Navy wear them, and then he said a bunch of stuff about Finding Nemo.

As for Gould, Greenman liked that she named the main character after the host, Todd. Klein was disappointed because Gould informed us that the character in the story wasn’t actually based on herself, so therefore she couldn’t tell Klein about her Klonopin use, or where she got it, or how it was working for her. Delahaye said something about Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights, which caused my photographer to cheer. Then, after some deliberation which may or may not have involved hair-pulling and arm-biting, Goulian was declared the winner.

1. Ned Beauman, who told us he is totally not resentful toward Chad Harbach or his $600k advance, despite the fact that both their books were released during the same week. 2. Kine & Goulian contemplate Theroux. 3. Gould helping out Kine by “phoning in” with her excellent Heaney-spelling wizardy.

Starlee Kine read something about a skinny guy named Dave who didn’t believe that the moon landing had happened and wore pillowcases with armholes cut out when it was really hot. Together, they ingested a magical drug that Dave had procured off the internet, which lasted exactly four minutes and managed to change your life. It didn’t do this for Kine, however; instead, it caused her to say “So we meet at last” to a pile of afghans.

Ned Beauman read a scene from his new book Boxer Beetle, where a man talked about collecting Nazi memorabilia. He also broke away from his reading several times to talk about “writers slightly older than us,” as Greenman said later (Eugenides and Harbach, specifically).

In order to keep the event from running over on time, the judges offered super concise comments. Klein liked Kine’s hair and how she read off both her phone and paper. Delahaye apologized for forgetting to announce that Kine had lost her sweater at another event. Greenman commented on Beauman’s apparent anxiety, and Klein and Delahaye were both fixated on the fact that he was British. Some fist-fighting/racial slur yelling may or may not have ensued, and then Kine was declared the winner.

1. Performance judge Jessi Klein gave kudos to Kine for how she had folded and braided her hair in the back. 2. Eric Bees, Jessica Wallen, & Munira Khapra, who are all NYC Arts administrators. 3. Host Todd Zuniga & artist/writer Katelan Foisy, doing their best prom pose.

For the final round, Kine and Goulian were both required to spell different author’s last names. It started out pretty easy, with Chabon and Pynchon, but Kine managed to fuck up anyway. Then it got harder, to le Carre and Palahniuk, and finally to the impossible with Wa Thiong’o and Solzhenitsyn. As I’m sure you could guess, Goulian won.

“What does it mean to you to have won?” Zuniga asked.

“Everything, bro,” Goulian replied.

And really, how could it not?

— Julia Jackson writes fiction and is the editor of Electric Dish. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College.

Photographs by Emily J. MacKinnon, who is a designer living in Brooklyn.

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