Saturday, February 13, 2016

Between the Lines: Andy Mozina's Contrary Motion

by Zinta Aistars
for WMUK 102.1 FM
Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate

Between the Lines is my weekly radio show about books and writers with a Michigan connection. It airs every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m. (or listen anytime online), on WMUK 102.1 FM, Southwest Michigan's NPR affiliate. I am the host of Between the Lines.

This week's guests: Andy Mozina

Andy Mozina (Photo by Chris Magson)

In contrary motion, things move in opposite directions. On a musical instrument, contrary motion refers to a melody in which one series of notes rises in pitch while opposing notes descend. In his debut novel Contrary Motion (Penguin Random House, March 2016), Kalamazoo College English professor Andy Mozina moves his 38-year-old character, harpist Matthew Grzbc, in opposite directions in almost every aspect of his life.

Living in Chicago, Grzbc hopes to land a chair position in a symphony orchestra, but his everyday life has him playing on demand to dying patients at a hospice and to the sounds of people chewing at hotel brunches.
Just-divorced, Grzbc dates a woman with whom he suffers erectile dysfunction, even while he can’t stop lusting for his ex-wife who's about to become engaged to another man. He’s a devoted and attentive father to his six-year-old daughter but the girl teeters on the verge of a breakdown after witnessing her father in flagrante delicto with her mother while Mom’s boyfriend is out of the house. Adding even more drama, Grzbc’s father suffers a fatal heart attack while listening to a relaxing meditation CD, leaving his son questioning his sanity and feeling his own mortality.
Mozina says he had reasons why he needed a character so laden with anxiety: “Anxious responses are often distorted non-realistic responses to a more or less reasonable problem. Fiction needs some heightening, so the character’s reactions were a little more extreme.”
When a longed-for audition to become a harpist for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra opens new career possibilities, Grzbc is again pulled in opposing directions as his anxiety reaches new levels. To audition or not to audition? And, if he's offered the job, should he move away from his girlfriend, his ex-wife, his daughter, and his life in Chicago?
Grzbc's saving grace, the glue to keep his life from flying apart from all that contrary motion, is ...

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