…a creepy new novel by Andrew Greer has disrupted my napping attitudes about age more than anything else I’ve read. “The Confessions of Max Tivoli” tells the story of a man born with a 70-year-old body that ages backwards.
It sounds like one of those tiresome concept books like the far-too-popular “Time Traveler’s Wife” now on the bestseller list. But two years ago, Greer published a beautiful debut novel about astronomers whose romance follows the periodic reappearance of a comet. So, he’d already proven that he was an author who could transform a narrative gimmick into a moving story of real insight. (And besides, plenty of great stories hang on narrative gimmicks: gossiping on the way to Canterbury; chasing a white whale around the world; wearing a red A for the rest of her life. Gimmicks don’t kill novels, authors kill novels.)
The secret to Greer’s success in “Max Tivoli” is his delightfully overwrought voice, his willingness to luxuriate in Victorian conceits of self-pity, love, and confession. For a modern author, it requires balancing on the razor’s edge between parody and profundity, and Greer sways precariously between the two in a way that makes it impossible to take your eyes off him.