Between the Lines: Andy Mozina's Contrary Motion
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 his sense of humor. He's as perfectly imperfect as are we all on those days when we look honestly at the mirror. Despite his many worries, most of Grzbc's fears are never realized.
Grzbc's creator, Andy Mozina, has taught English at Kalamazoo College since 1999. He's the author of the short story collection The Women Were Leaving the Men, which won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award. He's also written another collection, Quality Snacks, that was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Prize. His fiction has appeared in many magazines and he's received special citations in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the Midwest. Mozina is also the author of a book of literary criticism called Joseph Conrad and the Art of Sacrifice.
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