October 9, 2010

Termite Parade

Joshua Mohr’s second novel, Termite Parade, can best be summarized by the scraps of its own prose. The regurgitated chunks of text when spread out on a blank page are all one needs to understand the painful themes he has so tactfully woven into the perfectly paced plot. Ignoring any traces of sophomore novel angst, Mohr unabashedly allows the reader to wallow in the “vibrancy of creation” while he holds up “a mirror to humankind, so the animals could see themselves.

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.


  1. Well, I must admit that your review intrigues me enough to think I might venture to read the book. My life as a grown-up (or rather wanna-be "healthy grown-up") started with the study of ethology (animal behavior in their natural environments). My world view or "ground of being" since then has been that "we are animals" and we've somehow lost how to "be ourselves" as the animals we are.

    If he "reveals the animal in all of us" as "bad", then i won't be interested. If he reveals our twisted, sick, unhappy, human habits, that have taken us so, so, so far from our basic biological, "animal nature", and shows some insight as to how we human beings can work our ways out of our current mixed-up plight, that would interest me.

    To summarize my point more concisely (not my strength): we human beings are animals. we are not a "better animal" than any other of the animals on this planet. Nor are we a "bad animal" (although I think we are more abberrated and disconnected from our true animal natures for our species than any other animal -- except other zoo animals). Yeah. That's what set me off by your review -- the parts about "our animal nature" that are "bad". I don't think so. I don't think our animal nature can be "bad". Why would we be the only animal on the planet with a "bad" animal nature?

    I've gone on too long. I better stop with that.

    thanks for letting me share. I love your passion.


  2. He paints a dark tunnel, but there is a light however small at the end. The characters do terrible things but we feel for them.

    Not all bad, you will like it. Enjoy.