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The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean…

The Confessions of Max Tivoli (2004)

by Andrew Sean Greer

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1,349435,707 (3.69)60
  1. 20
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald (crazybatcow)
    crazybatcow: This short story about Benjamin Button has the same premise as Max Tivoli but the movie rendition of this title, with Brad Pitt, far far outweighs the short story on which it was based.
  2. 00
    The time traveler's wife : a novel by Audrey Niffenegger (suzanney)

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Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
I was under the impression the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was based on this book. This is not the case. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a short story around 1921 with the same title. It amazes me the author has not been questioned about how similar the stories are. ( )
1 vote AspieNerdGirl | Aug 12, 2014 |
San Francisco, magical realism, 2014 ( )
  geogal | Mar 15, 2014 |
It's basically a less romantic, creepier version of Benjamin Button. It doesn't really seem to have anything new to add so if you've already seen the movie of that there's not much point to reading this book. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
This novel reminded me of Fitzgerald's short story "Benjamin Button" - in that it is about a baby that is born an old man and as he ages his body gets younger and younger. Written as a memoir it is a story of the joys of childhood, the importance of finding love and the enduring power of friendship. Max's life journey is wrought with mixed emotions as he wishes his body was like others' his age and then deals with both unrequited love and the loss of his relationships. "The Confessions of Max Trivoli" is a powerful novel that will draw you in as you fall under the spell of the easy read and then will make you live the life of a man cursed to live in a child's body as his friends and loved ones age. You will cry but they will be tears shed with the knowledge that Max's curse may have been difficult to live with but he lived the fullest life knowing how important the little things really are. ( )
  JEB5 | Oct 30, 2013 |
“I just wanted the main character to die so that the book would be over.” – a fellow book club member
So, I didn’t feel quite that strongly about Max, but I did return it to the library as soon as I was finished, and I did thank the book gods that I hadn’t bought it. I was so anxious to be done with this book that I forgot to keep it around long enough for reviewing purposes, so I have no quotes or passages to back up anything I say. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

I was so ready to love this book. It had a super interesting premise and it was well-written. A male child is born to a couple and has the face and body of an old man. Now, I understand that certain books require a suspension of disbelief, and I’m okay with that as long as authors follow their own rules. Max Tivoli is born infant sized. There is no description of his mother being torn apart while trying to, literally, birth a man-child, yet later on in the book we are lead to believe that Max appears as an adult (when he is a child) and will shrink in height and physically grow younger until he turns into an infant- which seems to contradict him being born an infant. He starts off as a child appearing to be about 70 years old.
We are told that from the very beginning that Max’s mother has advised him to act the age that he appears to be as opposed to the age his is, but I don’t feel that we ever got any insight as how he goes about doing that or how such deception makes him feel. There are so many interesting places that this book should have lead. How does it feel to grow up with the face of an old man? How does it feel as a child to be forced to interact with people older than you? How does it feel to be physically old when you should be want to run around and play? How does it affect your interactions with your family and people who know your family; people in general? There were so many interesting questions that I would have liked to have just a glimmer of in the narration. Nope. The character is totally isolated and doesn’t make friends or try to interact with anyone besides Hughie, Alice and Madame Dupont – a brothel owner who used to be a maid in his house.

I think Greer was trying to build this great love story where we watch Max get his shot at love three times over a lifetime, as he appears to his love, Alice, as three different versions of himself. The main problem with this is the character of Max Tivoli. The novel collapses under the weight of a completely self centered and uninteresting narrator. It’s never clear why he loves Alice so much, and so his great love always seems like a juvenile crush that he hasn’t had the opportunity to mature into the depths of love that man might feel. Max is also too self-centered to give any of the other characters more than cursory consideration so we don’t get to know or understand them. I found the character of Hughie to be intriguing from the little I could glean from Max’s spare treatment of him, and he appears to be tormented by a secret, but Max doesn’t ever think to ask his best friend what is bothering him, and by the time Hughie’s secret is revealed it’s anti-climactic and to me, implausible.

Greer is a talented writer. He knows his way around a sentence and his descriptive abilities are very good, but the character of Max failed to move me, which is the kiss of death for any character and also kills the book when that character is the one telling the story. I was bored. This would have been helped had the narrative more fully addressed the realities and limitations/benefits of Max’s unique existence, but as a character he always fails to engage. He even meets someone he suspects is like him, and he doesn’t even talk to the person! Greer is a good writer, so I would be curious to read something else of his, but knowing what I know about Max Tivoli I would be quicker to jump ship if his next main character didn’t engage me rather quickly. ( )
  daniellnic | Sep 25, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Max may be a monster, but he is a profoundly human one, a creature whose unusual disorder, far from making him a freak to be wondered at, simply magnifies his normal and recognizable emotions, sharpening their poignancy. The course of true love, after all, doesn't run smooth -- even for those of us whose biological clocks move forward. So Max turns out to be not so strange a beast after all. He's doomed to improvise his way through life, just like the rest of us, dodging heartbreak and disappointment at every step, forever baffled by the absurd, hopeless ordeal of loving another human being.
added by SimoneA | editNew York Times, Gary Krist (Feb 8, 2004)
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Love..., ever unsatisfied, lives always in the moment that is about to come.--Marcel Proust
For Bill Clegg
First words
We are each the love of someone's life.
We are each the love of someone’s life.
And though I knew the smile faintly forming on her face as she left was not for me, and the sleepless night she would spend was not over my bearded face, still I was there in it somewhere. I was a houseboy of her heart. When we are very young, we try to live on what can never be enough. [78-79]
The past had its back already turned; there was no speaking with it. [82]
We were wed in May 1908 and I knew every inch of ecstasy. [167]
But people do not keep their secrets because they are so clever or discreet; love is never discreet. They keep them because we don't care enough to notice. [196]
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312423810, Paperback)

Out of the womb in 1871, Max Tivoli looked to all the world like a tiny 70-year-old man. But inside the aged body was an infant. Victim of a rare disease, Max grows physically younger as his mind matures. In Andrew Sean Greer's finely crafted novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Max narrates his life story from the vantage point of his late fifties, though his body is that of a 12-year-old boy. He has known since a young age that he is destined to die at 70, and he wears a golden "1941" as a constant reminder of the year he will finally perish in an infant form. His mother, a Carolina belle concerned over her son's troubling appearance, curses Max with "The Rule": "Be what they think you are." Max fails to keep this Rule only a handful of times in his life, but it is the burden of living by it that wounds him and slowly alienates him from the people he loves.

Over Max's narration of the preceding decades of his life, he offers outsider's snapshots of San Francisco and all of America across the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Throughout, Greer uses the literary device of reverse aging to interrogate the evolution of social conventions, the finitude of a human life, and the decay of memory. Max wants love. But his curse destines him to deception. He loses his wife, Alice, changes his name, and remains hidden from his own son to keep his true identity secret. Only his lifelong friend, Hughie, stands by Max and can see the person inside the anachronistic body. Like the best science fiction and myth, the novel uses its central conceit to reveal human prejudice and explode all assumptions of normalcy to profound effect.

Love is a destructive force in The Confessions of Max Tivoli. But Greer recognizes that in the failure of love is also hope. He artfully captures Max's fragile world with a delicacy that never crosses into sentimentality but also avoids the monumental scale of tragedy. As Max says near the end of the novel, "It is a brave and stupid thing, a beautiful thing to waste ones life for love." A journey with Max, while brave and beautiful, is hardly a waste. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:58 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"We are each the love of someone's life." "So begins The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a heartbreaking love story with a narrator like no other. At his birth, Max's father declares him a Nisse, a creature of Danish myth, as his baby son has the external physical appearance of an old, dying creature. Max grows older like any child, but his physical age appears to go backward - on the outside a very old man, but inside still a fearful child." "The story is told in three acts. First, young Max falls in love with a neighbor girl, Alice, who ages as normally as any of us. Max, of course, does not; as a young man, he has an older man's body. But his curse is also his blessing: as he gets older, his body grows younger, so each successive time he finds his Alice, she does not recognize him. She takes him for a stranger, and Max is given another chance at love." "Set against the historical backdrop of San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century, Max's life and confessions question the very nature of time, of appearance and reality, and of love itself."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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