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The Confessions of Max Tivoli (Today Show Book Club #22)
by Andrew Sean Greer

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Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2004-02-01)
ISBN-10/ISBN-13: 0374128715 / 9780374128715 Sales Rank: 2873542

Other editions
Paperback (Picador $17.00) | Unknown Binding (Picador $0.01)

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A novel about “a sense of being perceived as something different, or the experience of looking in the mirror and not being shocked at seeing someone old when you don't see yourself that way” (Andrew Sean Greer).

“Love works backward in time, like all secrets. It colors memory and first impressions, dull evenings and late sleepless nights. It makes them glow with heat, like coals taken for dead.”

Andrew Sean Greer
From his short story “Blame It on My Youth” (How It Was for Me)

“Growing against the grain of time, he feels time densely; the terror of transience and the tragedy of life's limits permeate this novel in a way that makes Lolita seem, relatively, a merry book, sporting an immigrant's amusement at America and connivance in its vulgar freedoms. Like Proust, Greer presents life as essentially a solitude, an ever-renewed exile from the present, a shifting set of gorgeous mirages that nothing but descriptive genius can hold fast. Max writes, ‘Life is short, and full of sorrows, and I loved it.’ His poignantly awry existence, set out with such a wealth of verbal flourishes and gilded touches, serves as a heightened version of the strangeness, the muted disharmony, of being human.”

John Updike (The New Yorker)
author of the Rabbit Angstrom books

“This is someone who not only has the nerve to imagine a love story about a man born old and aging backward, but a writer not afraid of emotion. He may even make you cry.”

Peter Carey
author of My Life as a Fake

“With a nod to Nabokov, it focuses on an older man's obsession with a young girl (from 14 onward). The novel is an open field for cultural sleuths, with references, some hidden, to other works. (...) With all the comparisons, the book stands alone as a period novel set at the turn of the 20th century. It deals with time as the great leveler and, in the Beckettian sense, the proximity of birth and death. It is also about people who, in Mr. Greer's words, ‘redeal the deck’ and make drastic alterations in their lives.”

Mel Gussow (The New York Times)

A 2004 Vacation Reading (selected by The New York Times)
“Dorian Gray would have understood: Max Tivoli's misfortune in this fantastic novel is to be born with the appearance of a 70-year-old man, and to regress methodically through his life to physiological babyhood. This is a hard fate, but it does enable Max to woo the same woman three times, at suitable intervals, without being recognized as the same man.”

Book description
Today Show Book Club Pick

An extraordinarily haunting love story told in the voice of a man who appears to age backwards

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 neighborhood 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. A beautiful and daring feat of the imagination, The Confessions of Max Tivoli reveals the world through the eyes of a "monster," a being who confounds the very certainties by which we live and in doing so embodies in extremis what it means to be human.

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