Art Beat: Hit and run
A college economics professor is enjoying a cold beer at a Kalamazoo brewery with his friends. He has one too many. As he takes a detour on the way home to watch the sunset on Lake Michigan, he hits two bicyclists and kills them. Author Andy Mozina, a professor of English at Kalamazoo College, explores the guilt and grief of a hit-and-run for the characters involved in his new novel, Tandem (Tortoise Books, 2023).
“I was actually in my car driving, listening to NPR, and I don’t remember exactly what the story was, but it was about a drunk driving hit-and-run,” Mozina says. “I immediately thought of both sides of that experience. I thought how awful that would be to lose someone that way. I thought how awful it would be to make that terrible mistake and to have such a terrible outcome. I thought there would be a lot of pathos, a lot of pain, and for some reason, my imagination just couldn’t let go of that.”
With his main character, the guilty driver, Mike Kovacs, Mozina explores his psychology—the part of him that wants to be caught, the part of him that feels terrible guilt, the part of him that wants to expiate his crime and be accountable for it, and the part of him that is aware of what that would look like in his life.
“He’s at a moment of weakness,” Mozina says. “He’s recently divorced and kind of on the rebound from that, and his life is finally just getting back to what feels right for him. That’s part of why when this terrible thing happens out of the blue, he’s not able to take responsibility for it.”
Along with the driver’s psyche, Mozina also explores that of the mother of one of the bicyclists Kovacs kills. She is not aware that her neighbor is the guilty party. That’s because Kovacs goes to great lengths to hide his guilt, ordering parts to repair his damaged car, even buying a duplicate car that he drives around the neighborhood.
Tandem is a dark satire about two lives that intersect in tragic circumstances. It is Mozina’s fourth book. Mozina’s story collection The Women Were Leaving the Men won the 2008 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award for Fiction and was a 2008 finalist for the Glasgow/Shenandoah Prize for Emerging Writers. His second story collection, Quality Snacks, was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor short fiction prize, among other awards. He is also the author of Joseph Conrad and the Art of Sacrifice.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.