A Chant of Paradise is the story of dedicated free-lance lover and professional dilettante Robert Z. Bartley, Ph.D., a research physicist somewhere in America during the heyday of the Cold War middle class. Bartley's predilections as a generalist cause him to neglect his paid work in favor of pursuing women. Two of these, unknown and unrelated to each other, form the nexus through which Bartley becomes engrossed in the passion of Eric Patz, a Christian mystic, whose friend and mentor has died alone and in unknown circumstances in a distant part of the country. Bartley's inquiries into the mysteries of the friend's death, Eric's singular religious fervor, and the irreducible genius of the human female, preoccupy him for forty years. One reader, presumably in tribute to its dissimilarity to anything he'd ever read, called the book "a snowball in propriety Hell."