A Mania of Love
by J N Pratley
Book-Art Press Solutions

"Our fantasy lives comingle with our conscious ones in a sometimes indistinguishable fashion, as if we are two different persons fighting for supremacy."

Clarence Nelson is a classics professor on sabbatical holiday in Hydra, Greece. He aims to write a book about the Greek poet Archilochus, or Archie as he calls him, using his time on Hydra for both research and relaxation purposes. While befriending both residents and visitors of Hydra, Clarence meets Lena, an expat French woman with whom he starts an affair. His novel, in turn, becomes a part autobiographical and part fictionalized modern-day account of Archie. Soon, the passion between Clarence and Lena turns nasty as she threatens to blackmail him, and their relationship becomes tense and complicated. As Clarence throws himself deeper into his novel, the lines between fiction and reality blur as he takes dangerous inspiration from Archie as to how to resolve his mistress woes.

Raunchy, heady, and comical, this book is a quick and entertaining read. The author creates a story within a story by dividing the book into two sections: one as the journal of the narrator, Clarence, and one acting as the book that Clarence is writing. In this way, the author can play with perceptions of reality, and the reader must determine how much of Clarence’s fictionalized story is based on his experience. As a narrator, Clarence is quirky and entertaining due to his eccentric professor persona, but he is also unreliable due to his unnamed mental illness. He champions himself as an esteemed professor, yet the reader finds out he engages in affairs with his undergrad students. He sometimes blacks out due to drunkenness or fits of passion. Drawing inspiration from Plato’s quote about madness, this short novel is a flirty love letter to both Greek tragicomedies and the wild, irrational behavior that comes from one’s libido.

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