The Incurable Romantic: And Other Tales of Madness and Desire

Frank Tallis. Basic, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1755-1

This thoughtful study from British psychologist and mystery novelist Tallis (Mephisto Waltz) comprises 11 tales from his own practice touching on a single theme: people who “have experienced significant distress attributable to falling in love or being in love.” He posits this as a neglected field in modern psychology. Tallis recalls that during the eight years he spent studying to become a clinical psychologist, only one hour was devoted to the subject, though love, which often involves delusions and obsessions, can sometimes seem a form of psychopathology. Perhaps the tales that best illustrate this are those of a married woman infatuated with her oral surgeon and convinced, against all evidence, that he reciprocates; of a successful businessman who approaches bankruptcy because of his hypersexuality (he estimates that he has been involved with 3,000 prostitutes); and of a guilt-ridden pedophile who struggles mightily to resist his attraction to the young daughter of a friend. Tallis has a graceful narrative style, easily incorporating brief digressions on deeper philosophical issues such as free will versus determinism. Most importantly, his book is suffused with compassion, avoiding facile categorization and struggling to understand and empathize with his patients as people in pain, often anguish, because of the love they feel. [em](Sept.) [/em]