From Conception to Realization: Jacob Wherly in Delayed Reaction

There are individuals who from an early age know exactly what they want to do with their lives and pursue it without deviation from their plan. They amaze me. They single-mindedly follow a career path to achieve their goals. They don’t change their college major five times before they finally decide what they really want to do.  They amaze me because I am not one of those people. My character Jacob Wherly is not one of those either.

A large part of the value of a higher education is to discover there are multiple world views other than the one we grew up with by virtue of being born in a particular time, place, culture, or religion.  When we leave the bosom of the family, we discover other ways of thinking and undergo experiences that call into question the givens of birth. Jake follows the norms of his society until an event in later life triggers his awakening.  Young men have always marched off to fight the wars older men claim are necessary. Jake was one of those men who blindly followed the expectations of society. Until age 32, I was one of those who let things happen to me instead of consciously making choices.  Jake wants to instill into the teenage boy Lenny a desire to pursue knowledge and to form a philosophy of life free of the prejudices, xenophobia, and narrow-mindedness into which he was born. He wants Lenny not to delay a genuine spiritual awakening until later life. He prefers that Lenny not have his coming of age at the butt end of a rifle in a jungle as he did in Vietnam.

I created Jake as a counterpoint to the religious fundamentalism that I believe poses today the greatest danger to a democracy. I did not want my novel to be a heavy-handed, vitriolic diatribe against fundamentalists, but to poke fun in a lighter manner at the absurdity of their teachings and the simple-mindedness of their adherents who abdicate their power to think, letting “fancy-pants” preachers who are more showmen than men of God hand them a pre-packaged belief system devoid of logical thought.  To allow demigods to do our thinking for us is to pave the way for a Nazi-like leader who will waste no time undermining the underpinnings of democracy: religious and ethnic toleration, free elections, freedom of speech and the press. This Nazi demigod/haranguer will tell the masses that multiculturalism is a danger; he will preach “fear your neighbor; don’t love your neighbor as yourself. The Other is your Enemy.”

These are a few of the concepts that were operating consciously in my mind when I wrote Delayed Reaction. I wanted to explore what wisdom my generation–people who came of age and had been forged in the furnace of the Vietnam War era and the civil rights movement–could pass on to their grandchildren. It is that leap over one generation where the wisdom is stored and handed down. That communication link between grandparents and grandchildren is where the lessons are told and where they are listened to. Parents are too close to their children to always have the time or the courage to tell them the truth.  Their emotional investment in their children interferes sometimes with communication. In contrast, a grandparent is removed enough to know that the welfare of the world is at stake and not just the success parents usually understand for their children in terms of educational, financial, professional and social achievement.

In Delayed Reaction I created Jacob Wherly as a comic character, a bit of a buffoon, who could evince these themes in a light-hearted manner while serving as a grandfatherly mentor role for Lenny Dickerson. He is the non-conformist juxtaposed against the conformists in a materialistic society. The women in the novel, Shelley and Gloria, do not question their assumptions; and therefore, they do not change. The male characters do grow and develop. I thought this is a refreshing change from the denouement in many of the contemporary novels I have read.  In writing Delayed Reaction I wanted men to be drawn into the story and to identify with the characters.  Although it treats of serious themes, this novel was fun to write and was also meant to be fun to read.  Writers must leave the judgment to the juror–the readers.

Cover Delayed Reaction: Jake Wherly & his Harley Davidson

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Carole Mertz on February 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Your subject in Delayed Reaction sounds fresh and makes me want to read the book. To treat a serious subject in a light manner is not always the easiest thing to do.

    Reply

    • Thanks for commenting, Carole. I hope you do read it. I enjoy reading books that can treat a serious subject in a light manner; I feel that makes the satire more effective than a heavy-handed approach. I hope to hear more from you.

      Reply

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