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Art. Protest. War. The tension between fate and responsibility. A bartender with a birthmark that looks like Hitler’s mustache who buys a Santa Costume from a homeless man. A successful lawyer with terminal cancer. Mohr’s novel whorls around a dive bar in the mission district of San Francisco, brushing elbows with and sometimes plowing right through many of the major questions and themes in contemporary American culture.
— From Damascus
“As Damascus, Mohr's third novel, is set in a bar, the comparisons to Charles Bukowski are inevitable. However, Mohr's worldview is far less caustic than Bukowski's. He gives readers a novel that pulls off the nearly impossible feat of breaking their hearts while lifting their souls and finds a lust for life in characters that have nothing left to lose. With Damascus, Mohr proves that he's the real deal: a talented writer who can take you to the edge without throwing you into the abyss.”
— Gerry Donaghy, Powell's Books, Inc, Portland, OR
"Damascus succeeds in conveying a big-hearted vision." --The Wall Street Journal"At once gripping, lucid and fierce, Damascus is the mature effort of an artist devoted to personal growth and as such contains the glints of real gold." -San Francisco Chronicle
It's 2003 and the country is divided evenly for and against the Iraq War. Damascus, a dive bar in San Francisco's Mission District, becomes the unlikely setting for a showdown between the opposing sides.
Tensions come to a boil when Owen, the bar's proprietor who has recently taken to wearing a Santa suit full-time, agrees to host the joint's first (and only) art show by Sylvia Suture, an ambitious young artist who longs to take her act to the dramatic precipice of the high-wire by nailing live fish to the walls as a political statement.
An incredibly creative and fully rendered cast of characters orbit the bar. There's No Eyebrows, a cancer patient who has come to the Mission to die anonymously; Shambles, the patron saint of the hand job; Revv, a lead singer who acts too much like a lead singer; and Owen, donning his Santa costume to mask the most unfortunate birthmark imaginable.
Damascus is the place where confusion and frustration run out of room to hide. By gracefully tackling such complicated topics as cancer, Iraq, and issues of self-esteem, Joshua Mohr has painted his most accomplished novel yet.
Joshua Mohr is the San Francisco Chronicle best-selling author of Some Things That Meant the World to Me and Termite Parade, a New York Times Book Review editors' choice selection.