Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

On Wednesday, September 5th of this year, I was reading my “Books—A-Million, Page-A-Day, Book Lover’s Calendar,” and I read the entry for this book. It sounded like an interesting premise – a man is born in 1871 at the age of 70 years old. As his body grows, his age declines. Of course, the blurb by John Updike didn’t hurt one bit. I bought the book, and finally got around to reading it this weekend.
At first, I was confused. The narrator (of the title) kept referring to different ages, and I was unsure where we were in time. I almost gave up, but I kept at it, and I am glad I did. Updike was right, it is an “enchanting” story of love lost, found, lost, and found again.
Greer has a penchant for embedding literary references in his story. The first time I saw one, I “harrumphed” at the obvious borrowing, but then I began to look for more little nuggets buried in the brain of a 60/10 year-old man/boy. For example, he writes, “Reader, she married me” and “the creature had to stay in the attic” as homages to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. We also have a “Gordian knot” and a reverse of Scarlet O’Hara when Alice redecorates the bedrooms “from old dress material.” The novel deserves another read to search for more references.
Max Tivoli was, at times confusing, but it all becomes clear in the end. A sad story, but one told with a strange sense of humor, and I could not help but feel sorry for Max. If you have ever loved and lost, you will enjoy this book. It has a decided 19th century feel to it. Four stars.
--Chiron, 12/4/2007

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