May 3, 2021
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 memoir Model Citizen is compelling on every page. Mohr shares his stories of addiction, love, and fatherhood with vulnerability and lyrical wisdom.
The Los Angeles Times wrote of the book:
"Any one of [Model Citizen’s] ingredients―addiction, fatherhood, near-death experiences―would make for a compelling book. Taken together, they constitute a powerhouse work, one haunted by the traces that people in Mohr’s life have left behind . . . If Model Citizen were a song, it might be a ballad by Nick Cave, a piece of drama inviting readers to sympathize with the devil on his shoulder, maybe even sit in its place."
Music was an essential ingredient in this sordid memoir’s genesis. In fact, music was the main frame of reference as I figured out the book’s intentions and architecture. I’m a firm believer that a memoir should be constructed to sound like a written reflection of the lifestyle that particular artist has led, for better or worse. And I’ve lived a very punk rock life.
Every author hunts for the marvelous symbiosis between form and content, and I wanted Model Citizen to sound like a Bad Brains’ song. I wanted the book’s “musicians” to be on drugs, the guitar is out of tune, the cocaine making the drummer speed up, the singer so hoarse after three months touring around in a stinky van. The book couldn’t be airbrushed, cleaned up, varnished. It couldn’t be over-produced. No, the memoir itself had to feel rough, raw, visceral.
To that spirit, I listened exclusively to (very loud) music while I wrote. I’m a nocturnal writer, getting going about midnight and scribbling till five or so. I swig a disgusting amount of midnight espresso shots, and all the lights in my place are out—and only my laptop, only the memoir itself tosses any light in the room. It’s the work and only the work that I can see. The book becomes a kind of lighthouse.
Oh, and one last thing before I leave you alone: I believe that a book is also a conch shell, and if you hold Model Citizen up to your ear, you can hear my heartbeat. I’m glad the two of us are in this thing together.
So here are some punk songs that became staples in the construction of my relapse memoir:
1. Banned in DC
2. Pay to Cum
3. Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs
5. Hypno Sex Ray
6. Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not
7. Mr. Integrity
8. Teenage Whore
9. Who the Fuck?
10. The Money Will Roll Right In
11. How Much is Enough?
12. History of Bad Men
13. Too Drunk to Fuck
14. Noise, Noise, Noise
15. AA Warm Breeze
16. Sons of Avarice
18. Bet my Brains
19. I Wanna Be Me
20. Endangered Species
21. Nobody’s Hero
And now that I think of it, most of these song titles would have worked for chapter titles in the memoir! Oh well. Too late now. Let’s keep this gaffe between us, okay?
Joshua Mohr is the author of the memoir Model Citizen and of several novels, including Damascus, which The New York Times called beat-poet cool. His novel All This Life won the Northern California Book Award. He is the founder of Decant Editorial.