Mark Twain once said that “When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.” That succinctly stated thought is at the heart of the new Chris Katsaropoulos novel, Antiphony. This is a complex and challenging story that revolves around the book’s central character Theodore Reveil, “one of the leading lights in String theory physics,” a contender for the explanation for everything. Through Theodore, the author compels the reader to wonder if we are not all mad scientists whose lives are our laboratories where we experiment to find life’s meaning and a way to embrace it.
The story begins with Theodore, on his way to present his latest research to an assemblage of his colleagues from around the world, discovering that he has lost the notes for his presentation. Unbeknown to the reader is that from this point forward, Katsaropoulos is about to take them along with Theodore to uncharted, unimaginable and incomprehensible territory of the mind.
In presenting Theodore’s state of mind, Katsaropoulos’ stream-of-consciousness style and the alternation between Theodore’s seemingly clear, albeit quirky thoughts and the incoherent, often unfathomable expressions of his dissociative world, creates a powerful, excruciating portrait of an individual in the midst of a meltdown to madness. As the story progresses, visions and dreams begin to dominate Theodore’s mind. In describing one of these dreams the author writes, “…Everything collapses into nothing, and everything that makes him who he thinks he is is gone completely. He is drawn within and lifted within; he is every reason and no reason at all.” Katsaropoulos’ distinctive, mesmerizing cadence further adds to the ethereal feeling of these passages.
What I found most engaging about Antiphony are the questions it raises. For scientists, questioning is critical to finding possible explanations. And so it is for the reader of this book. Antiphony’s greatest relevance is derived from the questions it cannot answer. For example, Theodore poses the unanswerable question “What if the universe, instead of being a giant machine, is really a giant thought?” Katsaropoulos raises many intriguing questions that offer metaphysical food for the mind.
The ultimate questions Antiphony poses for the reader are: What if Theodore isn’t mad? What if, indeed, we are all? Read the book! The story is fascinating, and the writing is powerful and poetic.