/ænˈtɪfəni/ Show Spelled[an-tif-uh-nee] Show IPA
noun, plural an·tiph·o·nies.
1. alternate or responsive singing by a choir in two divisions.
2. a psalm, verse, etc., so sung; antiphon.
3. a responsive musical utterance.
Chris Katsaropoulos’s excellent new novel, Antiphony, brings up two big questions. Can science identify a Final Theory that ties together everything; the ultimate secret of the universe? And, Does God exist?
The man who grapples with these questions is Theodore Reveil, “one of the leading lights in String Theory physics.” The book starts with Reveil in California, just before he is about to give a presentation at a conference called, the New International Perspectives on String Theory Symposium. The presentation will mark a pinnacle of sorts in the career of Mr. Reveil, but, unfortunately, he loses his notes. Flustered, rather than presenting the science-centered speech that he’d planned to give, he asks his audience:
What if the universe, instead of being a giant machine, as we have looked at it and studied it for the past three hundred years, is really a giant thought?
In other words, what if God truly does exist? Such speculation does not sit well with his colleagues.
When the book isn’t focused on the big questions, we’re asked to closely examine the mundane aspects of life. Reveil on the toilet. Reveil in his car. Reveil reading his work email. In the hands of a lesser writer, these scenes may have been banal, but they were actually my favorite part of the book. I enjoyed following Reveil as he “revealed” his day-to-day life. But I also think something more was going on. The scenes reminded me of something that the author Haruki Murakami says he tries to do in his work: “I like details very much. Tolstoy wanted to write the total description; my description is focused on a very small area. When you describe the details of small things, your focus gets closer and closer, and the opposite of Tolstoy happens—it gets more unrealistic. That’s what I want to do. The closer it gets, the less real it gets. That’s my style.” Katsaropoulos pulls us in very closely, and as a result it gives the reader a sense that things are not in balance. In fact, to me the novel shows Reveil as he slowly slips into madness. Or does he? Maybe he can just see something that the rest of us can’t – the truth.
Katsaropoulos has a beautiful and easy-to-read writing style. I breezed through the novel like a long short story. A big thumbs up from me, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this author has up his sleeve next.