Read My Book: David Elias on his Novella, Henry’s Game
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Sunday, December 1, 2013
Filed under: Read My Book
“I’m no good in the heat.”
Those are the first words out of Henry Suderman’s mouth, the narrator of Henry’s Game (Hagios Press). I like to think that opening line is a metaphor for the whole novella. The heat is real because Henry and his family are stranded on the hot asphalt of an interstate highway in the American southwest. Things keep breaking down - in more ways than one. But how much of this is his own doing? Example: one of the last things he does before he takes his family on this vacation to Disneyland is to excuse himself from a moment of deep, if painful, intimacy with his wife, Cheryl, so he can run off to meet another woman.
Okay, so the guy is failing spectacularly as a human being. But how much is wrong with him that a good swift kick won’t fix? Quite a bit, actually. He’s been getting kicked a lot lately and it hasn’t done any good. His best friend is dead of alcoholism. His mistress openly mocks him. Cheryl has to go on for some serious tests. Even his therapist is on him about how he spends too much time in his own head. But is he really as complex as he likes to believe - or is he just a jerk? I admit there were times in the course of writing Henry’s Game when I had to stop and ask myself why I was letting a guy like Henry take over my novella. But the answer always came back the same. “It’s his book. Deal with it.” But what is it, deep down that is wrong with him, anyway? That question is what kept me writing. And it will keep you reading. Just don’t expect any easy answers.
Last thing. Is Henry entitled to a shot at redemption? It’s not like he doesn’t know he needs to do better. It’s not like he doesn’t know how. It’s just that he keeps getting side-tracked by things like Chopin, and chess, and the lexicon of mushrooms. Whuh? But what about his own family, his wife Cheryl, his two children, Nick and Dennie? Don’t they count for anything? Maybe he will never change his inconsiderate and pretentious ways. I don’t know. You decide.