cover image The Nenoquich

The Nenoquich

Henry Bean. McNally Editions, $18 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-946022-62-2

Screenwriter Bean’s marvelous novel, first published in 1982 as False Match, is about a nenoquich—the ancient Mexican word for a lifelong loser, born under a bad sign. It’s 1970, and wannabe writer Harold Raab, 26, is on the skids. He begs Penthouse magazine to give him an assignment, hangs out with his Berkeley, Calif., crew of fellow bohemians, and fills a notebook with their aimless adventures. His life acquires meaning when he meets the married Charlotte Cobin. Frustrated with her med student husband, whom Harold earnestly admires, she launches into a sexual relationship with Harold that brings him into unexpected mental contortions. “I was afraid of the fears ahead,” Harold writes in his diary, his existential questions about the future making it difficult to be intimate. Charlotte’s moods prove more than a match for the nervous Harold as they stumble from the bed to breakup to reconciliation, and he tries to figure out how to be a person (“Society is a language we all learn,” he reflects). Tension develops not only through Harold’s heartache and confusion, but in the fact that as his life crumbles, he finally has something to write about. Rediscovered, this stands as one of the great novels of adulthood’s losing battles. Agent: Chris Calhoun, Chris Calhoun Agency. (July)