September 2008

Beth Harrington

fiction

Erotomania by Francis Levy

It has long been the teaching of religious and social traditions that sex should occur in the context of a loving and committed relationship, but can a loving relationship grow out of a purely sexual one? Dubiously subtitled “a romance,” Francis Levy’s debut novel Erotomania seeks to answer this very question. Monica and James have frequent, voracious, and utterly anonymous sexual hookups that leave James wandering the streets in a complete state of amnesia in their aftermath. While the sex is explosive and satisfying in itself, James finds himself wondering about the identity of his lover, who he realizes doesn’t exist to him outside of their encounters.

After several fumbling attempts, James finally locates Monica and the two struggle to function as a couple, only to discover that they cannot relate to one another outside of the bedroom. When their sex becomes so cosmic that they must move into a concrete bunker in order to avoid property damage, Monica and James finally seek out counseling from a couples’ therapist who advises them to explore other avenues through which they might channel their passions. However, whatever the couple discovers, be it art, gourmet cooking, or even television, it soon becomes a formidable force to reckon with, an obsession of its own. Thus, the novel becomes less a philosophical inquiry into whether or not two people whose involvement with one another is based solely on sexual gratification can graduate into a mutually intimate relationship, and even the reasons why they would choose to pursue this less selfish path, but rather about how to tame an all-consuming lust that really is the desire for desire itself, the need to push things to their most extreme limit and possibly beyond. By the end of the book, James and Monica have taken their manic obsessions in opposite directions: he has become fixated on exercise workouts, while she has become obese on frozen food and watches television perpetually. Strangely they are still together but no longer able to have sex.

Some readers may find the premise of this book a bit too far-fetched or be put off by repetitive scenes of gritty sexual acts. On the other hand, it is hard to resist characters such as a Brigadier General-cum-marital therapist -- who wins medals in couples’ counseling competitions and knows he is always right even when what he diagnoses does not match the symptoms described -- or a homeless man that James brings home with him who becomes his gourmet chef and unreciprocated lover. Levy seems to have an eye for detail for all that is absurd, commonly human, and uniquely American. Erotomania is recommended for those who are looking for an alternative read that borders on surrealism and is over-the-top.

Erotomania: A Romance by Francis Levy
Two Dollar Radio
ISBN: 978-0-9763895-7-6
160 pages