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Termite Parade Paperback – July 1, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Told by three narrators, this is the fabulously grim if perhaps too intentionally murky tale of Mired (pronounced like the verb); her boyfriend, Derek; and his twin brother, Frank, as they fumble through the aftermath of Mired's strangely fateful drunken tumble down a flight of stairs. There were days I felt like the bastard daughter of a ménage à trois between Fyodor Dostoyevski, Sylvia Plath, and Eeyore, Mired says, and this could be said about the rest of the misanthropic trio as they spend the totality of the book trying to uncover truths about themselves and one another. Each has a chance to share parts of the story, and occasionally the brothers chime in together with childhood memories, which allows the story to lift itself, somewhat, from the confusion and disorder shared by the narrators. The prose, meanwhile, is oddly lovely, considering the characters' dark, boozy, mostly joyless worlds. As Derek grows more depressed and Frank has a falling out with his brother's girlfriend, the group moves toward a frenzied climax that calls for a tumbler of whiskey. (July)
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I genuinely NEEDED to find out how the terrible threesome were going to resolve their myriad conflicts, and had to be reminded to do normal wifely things like.... get dinner.
It's an amazing book. Even for someone happiest when channelling Mary Poppins.
I never actually think that characters with unusual names, unusual to the degree that the narrator has to explain how to pronounce them, ever escape the cute factor entirely, but in this case Mired's foreign air and her general lack of propriety fit in with her Lena Dunham lifestyle, plus one. I felt sorry for her from the beginning, and when Derek steps in to complain about her to make her feel bad about herself, the novel immediately plunges into one of those he said-she said things that always attract me, both in life and in writing. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but with more drinking.
There are surrealistic overtones to the story, which I am loath to spoil, but suffice it to say that the title is well worth brooding about, for it is like the gun in Chekhov's dictum that does not fail to go off in act three. Derek is a perfect pest and a woman hater, but he has his own fears and kinks, he is not merely a twin of his more articulate twin brother. Oh, I forgot to say, if the dilemmas of twins grate on you, again take a hike, but for those of his with twin fantasies, this will be a treat, as it was for me. Can't wait to see what Mohr has in store!
The idea of humans as animals is the backbone of Mohr's tale. He forces the reader into the cages of three characters who "reveal every contortion of their flimsy spirits," in everything they do and say. He unhurriedly creates a tapestry of shame, guilt, and regret. But rather than pity these lost souls who are trapped in their self-inflicted "dilapidated zoo," and floundering in their "arrogant betrayals," Mohr forces us to see ourselves in their malice and indignity.
Mohr's characters and their abusive existences act as a reminder to us all that the human spirit, while masquerading as noble and benevolent is really just, "seconds from crumbling away."
Early in the novel, Mohr states, "maybe there is no difference between evolution and devolution as long as it leads to change." He then spends the remainder of the book deconstructing his three characters down to their most base emotions, and he painfully unveils the animal in us all. By allowing us to relate to their self-loathing, Mohr helps us unhurriedly peel back the duplicity we all hide behind to survive. "What's the difference between lying to yourself and being redeemed?" He asks. Mohr dares us to admit that we don't all constantly lie to ourselves.
While Termite Parade is a book that forces you to acknowledge the "neglected, hoarse conscience," within us all, ultimately it is a novel of hope. Mohr may expose the hypocrisy of human happiness, but at the same time he alleges that perhaps when broken down to our most animal instincts we can, help the unveiled animal get "it's voice back and sing."
This novel is an honest and tender testimony to what it means to be human in the face of a world trapped in it's own apathy and tedium. With every sentence carefully crafted, and every word chosen for immediate impact, it is littered with intense visceral scenes. You may be able to read it in one sitting, but this is a novel that will stay with you every time you look in a mirror and lie to yourself.