Experiencing One’s Self

Guest Post by Diana De Jesus.

Nietzsche once remarked, “In the end, one experiences only one’s self.”

The novel Hating Olivia: A Love Story by Mark SaFranko truly emphasizes this notion through the eyes of our main protagonist Max Zajack, a struggling artist and wannabe writer who lives in a rundown apartment in New Jersey. To support himself, Zajack takes on a low-paying job loading trucks for a living and playing gigs in nightclubs and bars. During one of his gigs, he meets Olivia Aphrodite, a literature student who changes his life in more ways than one.

Olivia Aphrodite, just as a her name suggests is the ultimate goddess. She is a beautiful, mysterious and enticing woman. At the same time, there is something amiss about her which Max overlooks. She is the perfect woman in his eyes, since she too has the same ideals as him. Afterwards, they engage in a love affair full of passion and ecstasy. In no time, Max decides to move in with her and soon after they both quit their jobs and engage in a bohemian lifestyle just like the great writers they read about and admire.

The early days of their romance is full of sexual energy, obsession, and unsavory vices.  Slowly and surely, however, it begins to unravel as their love turns toxic and volatile. Olivia’s behavior starts to become erratic, as she randomly quits school, goes on spending sprees, and just like Max jumps from job to job. As the money runs out, both hide from bill collectors since they can not pay their debts. Resentment, anger, and violence begin to emerge, more so on the part of Olivia. As a result, they get into drawn-out fights, even in public. Realizing her mental state is worrisome, he stays with her for her sake. On the other hand, Max sinks into a state of despair and is determine to create the novel he dreams of publishing with hopes of making it big.

In the end, I found Mark SaFranko’s novel engaging and twisted in many ways. In my view, Zajack was a delusional being, yet I could not help but root for him on his quest to becoming the next Henry Miller despite turmoil. As for Olivia, I think she was searching for something or someone to fulfill her desires, thereby always blaming Max for her unhappiness. Even though the book may be an acquired taste for some, Hating Olivia: A Love Story is worth the read to gain a sense of when fantasy and reality clash and we find ourselves stuck in ruts and must make attempts to get out of them any way we can.


Hating Olivia: A Love Story by Mark SaFranko. Harper Perennial, November 2010.

Reviewer bio: Diana De Jesus is an educator from Queens, NY. She is a fan of books, 80’s music to rock out too and old television shows. Additionally, she has a blog she is still very slowly and surely updating. (dianereadsandreviews.wordpress.com)

Buy this book from our affiliate Bookshop.org.

Spread the word!