I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
June 1, 2018: Joshua Mohr
Fear spills out of me like the milk rolling down my daughter’s chin. I shake my dead hand back and forth, back and forth, and say to Lelo, “Something’s wrong,” and she says, “What?” and I say, “911.”
Three strokes before he turned 40. And then they found a hole in his heart. Josh Mohr writes about all of this and his addiction and recovery and relapse and recovery in his memoir Sirens, published by Two Dollar Radio in 2017.
We all have piles of books, and lists of more books to read. There aren’t enough hours in a day. You may think, well, at least this one I can skip. But you can’t. You have to read this one. For so many reasons.
#1: The writing. It’s solid–each word like a brick, no fluff. Here’s an excerpt from the addiction-story thread:
I said, “What’s funny?” and she said, “You’re crazy,” and I said, “You got that right, pretty lady,” and leaned down slipping off one of her shoes and my wife was at a corner table having no idea that I was being such a scumbag, simply chatting with her friends, waiting for me to come back with a round of drinks, enjoying a normal night cocktailing until the moment she couldn’t stand me anymore, though that was still moments away, me trying to convince one of the Brokeback blokes to pour whiskey straight in this girl’s shoe and either Rick or Brian asking her, “You okay with this?” and she pointed at me and laughed and said, “He’s crazy,” and Rick/Brian already knew that, of course, and he poured whiskey in her shoe, my chalice, and the music thumped some Chicago break-beats, and most people at the bar started cheering when I brought the shoe to my lips and slurped out all the booze and the woman whose shoe it was clapped and made some sorority-style squeals and me asking the debutante if she wanted to dance and she said, “Sure,” and I said, “Not here,” and she said, “Where?”
#2: The craft. At a recent Writing by Writers‘ event, Josh described his process. First, he said, he wrote the story in a boring, linear fashion. Then he went to work to understand the universe of the story he wanted to tell. He told the LA Times,
I know it sounds super nerdy, but structure is the element of the book that I’m the most proud of. I wanted to find a way to tell the addiction story that we’ve heard so many times, but to turn it on its head and subvert those expectations. Something that seemed exciting to me was having narrative in the past tense and a narrative in the present tense that are both building toward their own sovereign apex.
I’m a failed musician, and I often think in terms of music. Most rudimentary guitar chords have three notes. The addiction stories—those are one note. The second note is Jan. 1, 2014, through March 11, 2014—my surgery day—the person fearing for his life. The third note is this meta-narrator—there’s a presence in the book inviting the audience to get as close to the narrative as she possibly can. I wanted to play them all off of one another. At first, certain scenes might not seem to go together, but on a second read you notice some echoes, some concentricity.
There are examples of all three notes that Josh writes about in the above paragraph in this introduction. For the addiction-story note, see the excerpt under #1 above. For an example of the second note, see the opening quote. And for an example of the third note, the meta-narrator, see the final quote below.
#3: The story. Or maybe story should have been #1. For the book starts with a prologue that grabs you and won’t let you go. The first excerpt above is from the prologue. And each note is a story in itself, and together they create the bigger story.
I’m thirty-nine now, writing this as a father, someone sober six years, writing this wondering if a look backward can make sense of who I am, what I am.
Come back on JUNE 1st to read how JOSHUA MOHR spends his days.