Author Josh Mohr talks to Evan Karp about addiction and redemption, The Flaming Lips, and his new book Damascus.
Shortly after I moved to the Bay Area in 2009, I met Stephen Elliott and asked him, essentially, who and what I should pay attention to. Stephen gave me some great advice but only two names, and one of them was Josh Mohr. I was excited, a few months later, to see Josh on the Literary Death Match bill. It was winter in the upstairs, black-and-candle ambiance of the Mission District’s Elbo Room, and Josh read about his longing to share the camaraderie of World Series champions as they slapped one another on the asses, even while deploring their lifestyle: “The drug addictions and infidelities and steroids and depression, and the nights they beat their wives with championship rings. The celebration silences these realities. But, see, I need a celebration more than these arrogant millionaires” he said, leaving the TV to purchase an entire case of champagne so he could join in the celebration. Josh ended his reading by pouring a whole bottle of champagne over his head.
Looking back, this was a fitting introduction. Josh wrote his first book, Some Things That Meant the World to Me (an O Magazine Top 10 Terrific Reads of 2008) on booze, he wrote Termite Parade (a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice) mostly on coke, and both books deal directly with self-pity. But since then Josh has sobered up, a decision that naturally influenced his routine and his attention to craft in his third and most recent book, Damascus.
I sat down with Josh in June, several months before the early October release date of Damascus, at a small café in Bernal Heights. We talked about his creative process, his decision not to “lobotomize” his first book for Random House, the ensuing relationship he’s had with small press Two Dollar Radio, the new book Damascus, and his fourth book.
Novelist Ali Liebegott on humor as self-defense and bounty in the trash.
Ali Liebegott’s books evoke a life-affirming sensation that comes from embracing the pendular. Her ability to hit the right tone is scientific, almost violent in its precision—a single word or observation, well-placed, can have a reader crying or laughing aloud. I do both when I read her writing.
We spoke at a small café in San Francisco’s Mission District. Liebegott was about to go on a reading tour with Sister Spit—a queer and queer-friendly performance roadshow—and was just that very week celebrating a double book release with the new City Lights/Sister Spit imprint: a reissue of her classic The Beautifully Worthless, which is a novel composed largely of poems and letters, alongside Cha-Ching!, her most recent book.
Evan Karp Let’s talk about Cha-Ching! How did it come about?
Ali Liebegott I don’t even remember. I was writing and noticed there was a lot of gambling, and then . . .