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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  272 ratings  ·  60 reviews

"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 Miss
Paperback, 206 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Two Dollar Radio (first published October 11th 2011)
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15th out of 28 books — 2 voters

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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Description: 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 pre
Jon Boulier
A shining and stellar achievement for the good guys of literature. I think a lot of immediate comparison for Mohr is going to be like, Bukowski-meets-whoever, or something - but I think any of those comparisons would be sadly miscalculated. Though maybe Bukowski on his better days, when he's put the bottle down for a minute to pet his cats. There's grit, and chemicals, and PETA might cringe, but all of it's done with care and love and some serious understanding about the way our hearts work. If ...more
great little tale of san francisco bar owner owen and the world he has made. he feels himself a failure but survives his own bad decisions and tries to at least keep his compassion, which maybe is one redeeming factor for folks, to take an interest and try to be nice. the merry/miserable cast that inhabit owen's bar, damascus, are typical neh? drunk sad man dying of cancer, lovable irascible drunk lady, drunk slacker hero-in-waiting bartender, drunk bi painter, drunk insane war vets, drunk but n ...more
Have you ever read a book and gotten mad because you wish you'd written it?
Andrew Dugas
Mohr's third effort centers on the regulars of the bar first introduced in his startling debut, "Some Things That Meant the World to Me" but that doesn't mean Mohr is repeating himself. On the contrary. "Some Things..." features a first person narrator whose internal reality is depicted with a mastery rivaling Kesey's depiction of Chief Broom. Here, the author's eye pulls out and brings us into the lives of various sordid characters whose lives intersect at the bar, Damascus. When we first meet ...more
Richard Thomas
[This review originally ran at The Nervous Breakdown.]

Damascus (Two Dollar Radio) is a depressing, raw, and touching novel, the latest tale of lost misfits and depraved losers from Joshua Mohr. Here we find Owen, the owner of the bar Damascus, who dresses as Santa Claus, a man with a birthmark under his nose that makes him look like a modern day Hitler. There is a man dying of cancer, No Eyebrows, who simply wants to be touched. There is Shambles, the jerk-off queen, who is willing to do just th
Kasa Cotugno
Mohr has a great affection for his characters. He gives them inner lives that resonate off the page, making the reader want to know what happens to them after the story is done. In particular, a terminal cancer sufferer's motivations are fully sympathetic even if his actions are somewhat incomprehensible, and the reader roots for this man in how he handles his affliction. Mohr's father evidently succumbed to cancer, providing him with the first hand empathy to create this wonderful character and ...more
If ever there was a need for the 4.5 rating... this book was a pleasant surprise, I ended up really enjoying it a lot - there were just a few quibbles here and there that kept it from perfection. But, then again, maybe that's exactly the beauty of this book: it isn't quite perfect and that makes it all the more wonderful.

Raging Biblioholism review:
David Pennington
Quite possibly the most perfect story I have ever read. I'm pretty sure this book was written for me and me alone - I found it to be that good.

Mohr paints a picture of gritty characters getting by in the Mission district of San Francisco. People are deranged, addicted, and drunk, but not without the craziest definitions of love between them.

Dirty, intense, awesome.
The Mission District in San Francisco is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in the city, and throughout its history it has served as one of the primary stepping stones for new immigrants to the Bay Area. Spanish missionaries and wealthy Mexican ranchers displaced the Native American population in the mid 19th century, and they were followed by immigrants from Ireland, Germany and Poland in the early 20th century, people from Mexico and Latin America in the middle of the century, and Sou ...more
Read 9/09/11 - 9/20/11
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Pgs: 208
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

*Damascus (noun): The “road to Damascus” is an image for a sudden turning point in a person's life.

I am no stranger to San Franciscan author Joshua Mohr. I read and adored his 2010 novel Termite Parade, dubbing it "The Next Best Book"; hosted a week-long interactive interview with him over at the TNBBC goodreads group; and was beyond thrilled to kick off a brand new monthly short story feature on this very blo
The myth of the non-dysfunctional family may be a relic of the past, but isn’t it interesting that when you take society’s least functional people and put them together, they act just like a family? That seems to be the premise behind Joshua Mohr’s Damascus. The novel, Mohr’s third, is set in San Francisco’s Mission District and takes its name from a dive bar owned by a man named Owen who brings cheer to his customers by wearing a Santa Claus suit to the bar every day.

Sadly, the only cheer Owen’
3 and 1/2! My pal Sara (and Goodreader) recommended this to me at a western Michigan whiskey distillery. It was a quick read, as promised, and full of fun, slightly characterized character (read: Santa Claus suit bartender hiding a Hitlerstache). My biggest problem with this little book is that it read more like a radio play, with the omniscient narrator constantly ushering in and out "scenes" and more dialogue than interior development. Or maybe a play done (duh) in a bar. Be a breeze to adapt!
Mohr's latest book details the intersecting lives of a few rough-and-tumble characters whose paths converge at a dive bar in San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s a novel that embodies the grit, uncertainty, and strength of desire that line real life. Don’t let the dark nature of the story be an obstacle, Mohr has a way of illuminating the heart of outwardly unsavory characters. Just as his candid prose pulls readers into his writing, Mohr’s genuine, warm manner will draw you in if you have a c ...more
Patrick Seymour
Owen is the owner of Damascus, a bar in the Mission district of San Francisco. It is a hole in the wall where people go to drink alone. No Eyebrows is a stage 4 cancer patient who befriends Shambles, a drunk who gives hand jobs in the bathroom of Damascus to pay her bar tab. Owen allows his niece's friend to install a controversial art show in Damascus that draws some unwanted attention and inspires a violent response.

The stories of Owen and the art show and Shambles's relationship with No Eyeb
Lolly LKH
Much grittier than his two prior books, I found myself immersed in the seediness. One thing that always stands out with Mohr's characters, they are flawed, scarred (physically, mentally), sometimes scary but somehow they always make sense to you. I also enjoyed the war of the everyday, in the midst of a real war. This isn't a glamorous, pretty read- but if it were, I wouldn't have rated it so highly. Different, seedy, gritty- wonderful...
Andrew Miller
I was enthralled by Mohr's book Termite Parade so I was looking forward to Damascus, and after a few slow opening pages, I quickly found myself equally taken by this book. In fact, I was so taken I finished it in one sitting. The book is a rollercoaster without the ridiculousness of a Dan Brown type piece. Damascus, the centerpiece dive-bar in this novel, works as a vessel for a diverse range of ideals and vices, functioning itself beyond place as a character all in its own. This is a place so m ...more
Far and away his best book. It will crack you up, break your heart, and make you think.
see my book review in lj
My main beef with this novel is with some of the writing. The narrative voice is too plain at times to tell a story with this setting and cast of characters. The language structure is too removed from the same vibe as Damascus, it sounds more like a true outsider than anything else, just somebody passing through who happens to know everything. And that brings up my other problem: the narrative is more about telling than showing. The narrator explains EVERYTHING through exposition and the like. M ...more
Juan Alvarado Valdivia
What a tremendous book. More of a 4 1/2 star book for me than 4 (I think I spent too much time thinking of its rating within this limited five-star system), but I think it was just about perfect. Didn't see any missteps in the novel——no extraneous scene, no lines or actions that didn't seem true to a character. I loved the narration Mohr created for these tales; it was pitch perfect. I was continually amazed by how emotionally true all of his characters and their actions seemed——and the author w ...more
Book: Damascus

Author: Joshua Mohr

Published: October 2011 by Two Dollar Radio, 224 pages

Date Read: March 2012

First Line: "Let’s start this one when a cancer patient named No Eyebrows creeps into Damascus, a Mission District dive bar."

Genre/Rating: Literary fiction; 4/5 live catfish nailed to paintings of dead American soldiers in a work of performance art

Review: Damascus is the seediest of the seedy. People with nowhere to go end up in this bar. It’s the end of the line. You don’t go to Damascus
An Edward Hopper painting or a David and David album transformed into novel form, with mixed results. This book is filled with the walking wounded, the doomed, the dying, the barflys, the artists, the night people; there is even the perfunctory whore with a heart of gold that reminds of Grandma Moses in "Barfly." Not much new can really be done with this subject matter, as the author as much as acknowledges in a nod to Bukowksi and Tom Waits. So you need to be a hell of a writer to pull it off, ...more
Apr 02, 2012 Elizabeth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hipsters with a taste for spirits
Shelves: 2012
I can't help but feel that this is Joshua Mohr's tightest book yet. Once again we are back in the Mission district of San Francisco and the dive bar, Damascus, is the stage. The characters we are introduced to run the alcoholic gambit, mostly with good intentions. There are some heavy issues bandied about with this crew, stage 4 cancer, war vets, and a myriad of levels of low self-esteem. Sometimes the self-esteem issues are the most brutal to read about. And for all of these down and out topics ...more
Among the safe bets in the world is this one: if a back-jacket blurb references Charles Bukowski, I will not enjoy that book. Don't get me wrong - plenty of folks have to go through their Bukowski phase, particularly young men from land-locked midwestern states and safe backgrounds that still find alcoholism and vulgarity vaguely exotic. But eventually we grow up. Eventually our tastes mature.

I'll give Mohr this much - he seems to realize the futility of the Bukowski narrative - his main charac
Steven Felicelli
Dirty realism at its most cliched. See Ironweed, Leaving Las Vegas, Barfly, Panic in Needle Park, Midnight Cowboy, et. al - rather than actually reading this laboredly gritty, pointlessly explicit, painfully unfunny hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold meets the end-of-tether-alcoholoic meets the tragically-afflicted-and-homely, etc., etc.
"Damascus" is a total irreverent look at life - and I really enjoyed it. Joshua Mohr takes a totally dysfunctional cast of characters and brings them to life in an amazing tale of personal hardship, broken relationships, and the vibrancy that life should really be.

I loved this novel. I was especially struck by how compelling a character "No Eyebrows" turned out to be. Mohr captures his battle with cancer, and the response of his loved ones, in a way that hit very close to home and was spot on.

Dec 22, 2012 Anita added it
Good story, near-perfectly told about a bar in the Mission (in SF) that becomes the site of a political disagreement between an artist protesting the war in Iraq with her art and a group of violent pro-war men. A well-defined, quirky-but-familiar cast of characters and authorial comments made this more lively and entertaining, but also a bit more of a conventional narrative than I'd anticipated. Perhaps this wasn't the right time in my life to read this. I would have gushed over it ten years ago ...more
Wasn't gripped and didn't feel like finishing. Otherwise, it was great.
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I am the author of four novels, most recently "Fight Song," about which the LA Times said, "Not many authors can shift from satire to sentiment so easily, but Mohr is a clever enough writer that he manages to pull this off."

"Damascus" was described as "Beat poet cool" by The New York Times.

Also, I wrote "Termite Parade," about which the New York Times Book Review said:

"A wry and unnerving story
More about Joshua Mohr...
Some Things That Meant the World to Me Fight Song Termite Parade All This Life: A Novel Crush: 26 Real-life Tales of First Love

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