Has it really been a year since I did a death match? Sorry. A DEATH MATCH? Forgive me, my most beloveds, life got in the way of life. Or at least of reading. It wasn’t you, it was me. And when I say that, I’m not even using it as a cop out like your last bad boy- or girlfriend did. It totally was me. No, seriously, who would ever blame YOU? You’re as lovely as a spring daisy, you are.
Two books enter. One book leaves.
Today, our contenders: two novels by a very talented writer, Mr. Joshua Mohr. Who will prevail? Will it be, IN THIS CORNER, a book about a group of lost souls just looking to belong and connect to someone, anyone, in a seedy, down-on-its-luck bar? Or, IN THIS CORNER, a book about a man pushed to the very limit, who is also looking for something – or maybe a whole lot of somethings? This is an epic battle of battered barflies versus a man on the edge! Who will prevail, WHO WILL PREVAIL?
Author: Joshua Mohr
Published: February 2013 by Soft Skull Press; 252 pages
Read: January 2013
First Line: “‘Way out in the puzzling universe known as the suburbs, Bob Coffen rides his bike to work.’”
Genre: Literary fiction
Bob Coffen is your average Joe: a wife, two kids, a none-too-challenging job for a man he disdains at a computer company. Even his last name is indicative of where he’s headed, possibly sooner than the rest of us. Until one day, his neighbor, the ebullient and possibly slightly touched-in-the-head Schumann, runs him off the road with his SUV. Something inside Coffen snaps. Landing in the oleanders is his wakeup call that things need to change.
I am a fan of books where the lead character is pushed to the edge and that’s when you see his or her true colors. I like to watch what happens to someone at their breaking point; what they’ll do to keep it together, whether they’ll change or do anything they can to have things stay the same. I liked Bob Coffen. I liked the characters he came across when he left his safe and staid beaten path. I liked seeing how he created his own road-less-traveled-by, and the people he chose along the way to help him carry his load. I said when I read Mohr’s first book back in March that I was looking forward to reading more of his work; I’m glad I was right that he would just continue getting better.
Author: Joshua Mohr
Published: October 2011 by Two Dollar Radio, 224 pages
Date Read: March 2012
First Line: ”Let’s start this one when a cancer patient named No Eyebrows creeps into Damascus, a Mission District dive bar.”
You can read my full review for Damascus here, which I wrote earlier in the year. It was my first Mohr book (and I knew it wouldn’t be the last.) Mohr has a deft hand with characterization; his characters are real, and you know this because they often screw up. Colossally. And say and do stupid things. But you know what? *I* often say and do stupid things. And I like reading about characters that also do, because they’re real. And they’re relatable. And, to me, it shows a writer has been paying attention to life. Because, SURPRISE, in real life? People don’t walk around in white or black hats and have either the purest or the most dastardly intentions. They, mostly, are just trying to get by. Just trying to do their best. And I like reading about people like this, because when they succeed, it gives me hope for myself, and when they fail, I understand, because I’ve been there.
Now. Are you ready? It’s time for…DEATH MATCH.
The rules of DEATH MATCH are simple. THERE ARE NO RULES. No, sorry, that’s not true, there are totally rules. The rules are: I will score the books on an arbitrary system and, at the end, ONE BOOK WINS. What does the book win? YOU SHALL SEE.
Today’s DEATH MATCH shall be scored with: crazy bamboo uncomfortable-looking barstools, as there are bars in both books.
- Characters as real as anyone you might run into on the street (well, if you lived in a really kooky town): 2 barstools
- A magician who can’t stop crying: 1 barstool
- A very funny video game about…um…well, I won’t tell you, but just keep your pets inside, ok?: 1 barstool
- A scene at an aquarium (I’m an easy sell, as I love marine life): 1 barstool
- A love story that was realistic and sweet and down-to-earth and an organic part of the story: 2 barstools
- Schumann messing with poor Tilda’s heart a little: -1 barstool
- A scene near the end that made me cry, and oh, do I love to cry when I’m reading: 2 barstools
- A number of sentences that were so beautifully written that I actually laughed out loud (or sometimes “ooh”ed): 2 barstools
Rating: 4.5/5 plaques that are also a clock (hereafter known as “plocks”) that don’t really tell the time, and are always stuck at midnight
- The characters, which Mohr is so good with that I kind of want him to script my life: 2 barstools
- Shambles the prostitute who works at the bar, who is so broken she breaks your heart: 1 barstool
- No Eyebrows’ backstory, which, when revealed, breaks your heart again: 1 barstool
- The knowledge that Mohr understands that, when it all boils down to it, all we want is to connect with someone else, really connect, just once, before we die: 2 barstools
- Owen, the bartender, who wears a Santa suit so people won’t make fun of him for other things he has going on: 1 barstool
- Fish murder: -1 barstool
- The ending, which didn’t seem fully thought-out: -3 barstools
Rating: 4/5 live catfish nailed to paintings of dead American soldiers in a work of performance art
I’m going to tally the votes. While I’m doing that, here’s something to think about: once, I was driving home and it was very dark and snowy and I thought I hit a cat? So I pulled off the side of the road and was all “cat? CAT?” and I was crying and crying and couldn’t find it and then I called BFF when I got home and he was all “calm down, it was probably not a cat, plus what if a car hit you, it’s like 11pm in the night.” And the next day there was a piece of wood there so probably I hit that in the dark and it wasn’t a cat, or the dead cat turned into a piece of wood, and that is the story. THE END.
AND! THE WINNER IS! With a total of 10 barstools to 4 barstools:
Hooray hooray for you, Fight Song! Please collect your prize! Today’s DEATH MATCH prize is:
A DVD of Falling Down with Michael Douglas, which I think Robert Coffen might enjoy because Michael DOUGLAS was ALSO pushed to the edge! However, he didn’t handle his crisis in such a panache-filled fashion, oh no no he did not.
Thank you for playing, and come back again for our next round of DEATH MATCH, where we will pit two more equally worthy adversaries against one another until the BITTER, BITTER END!