Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"The Confessions of Max Tivoli" - Andrew Sean Greer


With The Curious Case of Benjamin Button arriving at theatres, I was drawn to this novel about Max Tivoli, a man born as a grizzled, old baby, who progresses through the aging process backwards. It is not the basis of the film (which is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and one that I would not recommend). Still, there are similarities; in fact, even Max claims to see a 12-year-old at a bar in Spain who has the eyes of an old woman and knows she is like him.

Old, gentlemanly Max falls in love with Alice when both are at the birth age of 14. His infatuation drives him to follow her throughout her life, reappearing in his different ages to dupe her into loving him anew. Along the way, his selfishness causes him to lose many of his loved ones, both families and friends, but he still is relentless in his push to possess Alice's heart.

It's a much better novel than I expected. People told me that the ending is bleak. Of course it is. But the writing is phenomonal. Every few pages Greer throws in a description or detail that brings truth to the foreground... a strange oxymoron with this style of fantasy novel. His writing tries to convince the reader that Max can be forgiven for his actions, while socking you in the gut.

4.25 out of 5.0 San Francisco Cocktails.

6 comments:

moonrat said...

I was wondering what the relationship with Benjamin Button was--it seemed like they were too similar.

Thanks for the review. I've been vaguely curious about this book for awhile.

Chris Bowers said...

Sounds like just my type of strange.

angelle said...

read this a few years back. While it was reasonably enjoyable I don't think it stuck with me or was nearly as hood as it could have been. In fact when I heard about the Benjamin button movie (hadn't known about the short story) I thought it was based on this. Not bad.

Kristin Dodge said...

While I'll still see the movie, I'm sure this book will be in my mind. I can't imagine they'll make a Brad Pitt character as selfish as Max Tivoli, but that flaw made the book interesting to me. The F. Scott Fitzgerald piece was too short to tell where the movie will wander.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the movie - enjoyable but "Max Tiovli" was firmly in my mind (love that book). Am appalled that the writers of the Ben Button screen play deny any knowledge of Max Tivoli even though the review of the novel (John Updike "New Yorker" 2004) mentioned "Benjamin Button" parallels... Feels as if the modern author (Greer) was unfairly denied any credi, if not outright was stolen from....

Anonymous said...

I'm just finishing the book. I have about 70 pages till the end.

In the beginning I liked the author's style of writing, composed of lengthy flourishes that described the scene in which the characters were in. However because it continued throughout (and I don't imagine a writer would change up in the middle of a story), I began to lose a little interest. It was the story that begged me to continue. It's not the best story I've read but it is intrigueing, compelling in someways.

I haven't read the full ending but if he were to write it over again, I don't know that I'd center it around the one character , Alice , while Max is traveling backwards. It would have read better if there were some other ideas that he would write about in Max's journey.