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July 2, 2010

Book Notes - Joshua Mohr ("Termite Parade")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Joshua Mohr's debut novel Some Things That Meant the World to Me impressed me with its "exacting prose and poetic insight." Mohr's second novel, Termite Parade, is dark, chilling, and skillfully told through its trio of unreliable narrators. The psychological tension is palpable between each of these characters in one of the year's most thrilling works of literary fiction.

San Francisco Magazine wrote of the book:

"At its best, Mohr's prose—which earned him kudos from O magazine in 2009 for his first novel—strikes a delicate balance between revulsion and beauty (starting with the metaphor behind his title, which we won't give away here). Termite Parade is a treat, an unlikely redemption story with a distinctly San Francisco flavor."

In his own words, here is Joshua Mohr's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Termite Parade:

This book is narrated by 3 different heads, and each—assuming I've done my job right—has their own mood, language, preoccupations, and taste. So checking out different styles of music for each personality, building a kind of "greatest hits" for them helped me to establish each as a sovereign being, allowing me to inhabit their hearts and heads.

Mired's songs

Her name is pronounced like the verb (An example: "I am mired in a pit of existential ennui and only whiskey seems to help."). She's the heart and soul of the story. If someone asked me—though no one has—who's the star of the romp, it's definitely Mired's book. Here are a few songs she digs.

"History of my Future" - 7 Year Bitch

There's a point in this song where the singer's screaming, "If you're gonna lie down next to me, don't lie to me." This should be a public service announcement. At the very least, Mired should chant it to herself every time a guy offers to buy her a drink.

"A Diamond and a Tether" - Death Cab for Cutie

A beautiful, languid melody: this is the sort of sleepy track that's perfect for a walk in the rain. Plus, Death Cab's singer is sleeping with Zooey Deschanel. Well done, sir.

"Black Swan" - Thom Yorke

My schizophrenia is fighting me a bit with this song… does Mired like it or do I? Hmmm. Either way, it certainly covers a way "we" often feel in life: that once things get mangled or bent, there's no use pining for how they used to be—there's only how they are now. The past tense is basically useless in our lives.

Derek's songs:

"The Money Will Roll Right in" - Fang

One of the greatest punk bands from the East Bay, Fang's "path to glory" was interrupted when their singer had to go to jail for killing his girlfriend. Whoops. But Derek is one of those guys who thinks anyone who earns a lot of money is a spineless robot. As he says himself in the book, he doesn't want to help a "white collar working stiff whose asshole smelled like a cappuccino."

"I'm Designer" - Queens of the Stone Age

There's a cool aesthetic being touted in this track. Queens aren't going to pander and love unleashing their scathing commentaries on what they're seeing in popular culture. Low hanging fruit? Maybe, but it sure as hell tastes good.

"Time to Get Away" (LCD Soundsystem)

After Derek does something terrible to Mired in the book's early chapters, it's definitely time for him to get away. He bolts town and flees to Reno to "regroup." Because as we all know, there's no place as relaxing as Reno, Nevada. Who needs to recuperate in a mud bath when you can hang out in casinos with meth heads?

Frank's songs:

"Misery's the River of the World" - Tom Waits

Poet/genius/soccer dad Tom Waits is my favorite singer ever. This song has this amazing chant where Waits says "If there's one thing you can say about mankind, there's nothing kind about man." How do you argue with that?

Birds Encouraged Him" - Jason Lytle

This one has a quiet kind of isolation in it. I like how Lytle builds songs from the melody up. I imagine in Frank's more pensive moments, he'd listen to plangent music like this and wonder why his dreams seem impossible to obtain.

"Convinced of the Hex" - The Flaming Lips

Frank would appreciate how subversive the Lips are. They've consistently done their own thing, produced their own variety of madcap music. All artists hope that they can do their weird little thing and that the audience/ the trends will come to them. The Flaming Lips were one of the lucky ones who had their perseverance rewarded. I hope every artist spits out the bait of compromising their aesthetic for money and fights the good fight.

Joshua Mohr and Termite Parade links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the author's Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book
excerpt from the book

The Nervous Breakdown review
San Francisco Magazine review
SF Weekly review
TDAOC review

Clamour essay by the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay for Some Things That Meant the World to Me by the author
The Rumpus contributions by the author
SF Examiner interview with the author
Three Guys One Book essay by the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists