Family Happiness


The Coroner's Gambit




the Mountain Goats



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Family Happiness is the ninth song on the album The Coroner's Gambit.


As we cruised across 
The Canadian border
You reached into your handbag
Pulled out a micro-cassette recorder
Started quoting Tolstoy into the machine
I had no idea what you meant
I guess I'm supposed to figure these things out
Or maybe it's supposed to be self-evident
But I've gone feral
And I don't speak the language anymore
We're headed deep into the forest
I've got the pedal to the floor
The engine shudders like a dying man
When you reach out to grab my hand
You can bring out all your weapons
You can't make me go to war

Long winding Canadian highways
Innumerable evergreens
Weather forecast on the AM radio
Says we'll be expecting highs in the low teens
When I mouth my silent curses at you
I can see my breath
I hope the stars don't even come out tonight
I hope we both freeze to death
Look at the person I've turned into
Tell me how do you like him now
No standards of any kind to break, no creeds to disavow
I am right here where you want me
Do what you brought me out here for
You can arm me to the teeth
You can't make me go to war

Comments by John Darnielle About this SongEdit

  • "This is a song about, uh, as several of my songs are, about a couple of people in a car. They have a, they have a third sort of person in the car, but it's more a ghostly sort of energy force, right, so it's not actually a person, but it's a sort of person they've conspired to make who sits behind them at all times and tells them that the only way either of them will get out of this alive is to eat the other one, right. And, and the name of the ghostly energy force is 'Bob', and he rides in the back seat." -- 2011-04-05 - The Vic Theatre - Chicago, IL
  • "So this is a song about a couple of people in a car, and uh, it's kind of hot in the car, though it's cold outside, and the reason it's hot in the car is the seething temperature of their hatred. And they're sort of like, you know, it's one of those situations where you really -- Let's say you're in this car. You have probably at some point, the odds are pretty good you've been in this car. And, uh, at one point or another you look over at the speedometer and it says 75, you're riding shotgun, and you think, you do this sort of quick calculation. You don't really know, you know, you're not a physicist, much less a criminal investigator, anything like that, you're just a person in a car that you wish you weren't in, but you think, If I pop the door and drop and roll and I tuck my elbows in, between here and the bushes at the shoulder, what's the damage I sustain, and you picture your lifeless, unconscious body rolling down the beautiful hill, and you see yourself as though in a Japanese film and think, 'You know, I might make it; maybe I will look up and I will see the last bit of the car speeding away from me and I will count that as a victory.' This song, this song is about people who have chosen whatever the opposite of victory is." -- 2011-04-11 - Wexner Center - Columbus, OH

Things Referenced in this SongEdit

  • The title of the track, in combination with the line "Started quoting Tolstoy into the machine" is a reference to the 1859 novella Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy.

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