Book Review: From The Graveyard Of The Arousal Industry By Justin Pearson

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From The Graveyard Of The Arousal Industry By Justin Pearson
(Soft Skull Press, 192 pages)

By Justin M. Norton

Traumatic childhoods are the stuff of many modern memoirs. Stories about addiction, horrible parents, abuse and hopelessness fill book racks and Kindles each year. Some backgrounds are even fabricated to make them more horrific. James Frey’s tell-all substance abuse autobiography A Million Little Pieces was wildly popular until an enterprising reporter discovered that it was filled with lies.

No embellishment is needed in Locust bassist Justin Pearson’s book From The Graveyard Of The Arousal Industry. His story is one of patience, determination and hard work in the face of enormous odds: the murder of his father on Halloween; an abusive stepfather and an endless string of merciless bullies and skinheads.

Pearson never asks the world for pity. His book is instead a paean to human endurance and a primer on how a sense of humor can help us through life’s most difficult journeys. It’s easy to see why Pearson didn’t think much of threats or tossed bottles during Locust shows; he faced far worse at a much earlier age.

Looking at Pearson’s background, you’d assume this book is a downer. It’s not. It’s constantly funny and often moving. Pearson was determined to do something with his life even when adults told him he was worthless. His stories detail a young man that was as inventive as he was curious. When he was abused by a drunken stepfather he memorized the number of child protective services and would recite it when he felt threatened. When he was 12 years old he talked his way backstage at a Cramps show and partied with Slayer. When he was a college student he decided to start his own record label, a move many thought was risky (Three One G Records is now an underground staple). Most infamously, he pranked The Jerry Springer Show when the show ruled the daytime airwaves. He tours the world playing music in a bug suit.

This book isn’t a primer on The Locust or the San Diego underground, although both are covered. The strongest parts of From The Graveyard Of The Arousal Industry detail Pearson’s early life. Anyone that grew up loving metal (most readers here) will see themselves in this book. The book only seems to lose steam at the end. The Locust’s touring antics are hilarious, but in the latter sections Pearson seems to back off from the naked honesty that makes the early chapters so strong.

Pearson’s writing is unadorned and simple, but effective. The chapters move swiftly, and are short enough to revisit if you find yourself laughing. It isn’t J.D. Salinger, but it’s a worthy effort from a first-time author.

From The Graveyard Of The Arousal Industry isn’t a perfect book, but it’s a very good one. Metal and punk fans often greet the world with a raised middle finger and a grimace; this book is about how a wry smile and a good joke will take you much further.

Rating: 8

Get the book here: http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-59376-262-3

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.