128 make up life each day and test it against reality and chuck out what didn’t fit. PKH: We’re talking 150 years ago when the story took place, so what lessons do you think the reader -- young folk, specifically -- might learn or extrapolate from reading the book. MS: I think one of the forms the coming of wisdom might take is realizing that the world comes at you in versions and illusions and fraudulent surfaces. Illusion is always vying with reality for power over your intelligence. Sense the difference; hold belief in suspension; wait for the full story. Act out of love and even the shifting surfaces of the world will make sense. PKH: Interestingly, in this country people tracing their heritage to Germany make up the largest ethnic group, yet this group has done the most assimilating of all ethnic groups. It seems you tackle that in the figure of Heinrich Weinhard. Discuss. MS: I found the whole German historical background to be a rich vein to be mined for complexity in the story. No act fictional or historical was untouched by the facts of Henry W’s German background. In 1848 in Germany, no young man was unaffected by the brutality and senseless slaughter that was the conscription and internecine wars of the German nation working out its nationhood before being united later under Bismarck. Germans were fleeing to America by the thousands and assimilating into new ways and new laws as anyone would fleeing the perceived terror of old ways, old laws and ancient power structures.
CIRQUE ideological landscape (the Rendezvous’s licentiousness, the paradoxical stories of a magical figure like Joshua, the collision of narratives and vying for truth on all sides) in such a way as to confront his idealism, to test his resolve and to challenge the preconceptions he had from stories he heard in Germany before he left for America. HW was a strong presence in a sifting moral landscape. His power was his sense of certainty, his sense of self. PKH: Good and bad get mixed up in the under girder of what it is that makes up the Western immigration, in the people who came (still coming?) out here. Discuss. MS: Some of this I’ve treated above, but moral subjectivity is the center of the shifting realities in the novel. Henry is always trying to do the right thing. The right thing is always complex, and judging what is the right thing is always an exhausting task. Henry is up to the required weighing and re-weighing needed because he is full of the energy--sexual, moral, civil, economic, legalistic, etc.— it takes to adjudicate each day and each act. He cares. He is heroic in this caring whether the reader damns or praises individual acts. He is a Nietzschean hero trying out the world against his own closely held truths. ~~~~ Paul Haeder is the author of Reimaging Sanity: Voices from the Echo Chamber, to be released by Tayen Lane Publishing in the spring of 2016. (See review of Michael Strelow’s novel Henry: A Novel of Beer and Love in the West on page 117)
PKH: There’s a real certainty in both the narrator’s voice and the way things play out in the book, as if all that progress and building of Portland is and was the right course to take. Today, we are not molded from that same confidence, I believe. Can you discuss this? MS: Henry, as I conceived him from both the historical research and my own inclinations (see above), was full of not only confidence in himself but also confidence in the working out of his own destiny as a power broker. Again, the Romantic ideal of the potency of the individual (Ayn Rand’s particular perversion of that power comes later.) informs the entire novel. I tried to move HW through the Western William Wikstrom
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