Contrary Motion

Andy Mozina. Random/Spiel & Grau, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9828-3
"Two steps forward, one step back" describes not only the complicated musical technique that gives Mozina's darkly comic first novel its title, but the progress of the narrator's life and the novel itself. Chicago-based harpist Matthew Grzbc, who ekes out a living giving private lessons and playing for brunches at the Marriott, finally has a shot at a permanent position with an orchestra in St. Louis, but the rest of his life is falling apart. His father has just died, his sweet ex-wife is involved with a guy he doesn't like, his high-strung girlfriend is on the verge of breaking up with him, and his six-year-old daughter is "an anxiety prodigy." Mozina's skewed sense of humor occasionally leads him out of the realm of realism, as in a scene where a priest's depressing homily leads a bride to flee the church, and repeated descriptions of Matt's failures in the sack are almost as excruciating for the reader as for the participants. His encounters with the hospice patients for whom he plays the harp lead to temporary moments of insight that soon fizzle out. Mozina (author of the story collection Quality Snacks) stays faithful to the notion that art rings truest at its most tense and least resolved. Readers will appreciate this wry take on a richly dysfunctional life. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 03/08/2016
Genre: Fiction
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