Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Confession

Baby, I am whipping through books in 2009 like they are going out of STYLE, I'm telling you. I've finished THREE this year, and I had planned to do one every two weeks. I am a READING MACHINE.

Strangely, too, I am enjoying them.

Just finished "The Confessions of Max Tivoli," by Andrew Sean Greer. This book started off with a lot of expectation. I had read it's source of inspiration, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then I unwittingly read its other Updike-ian comparison from the New Yorker, a 2004 article bringing in "Lolita" of all people, when the book first came out. The book had a lot of weight on its shoulders/big shoes to fill.

And it filled them in a disappointing way. I loved this book, and the ending disappointed me. This guy was supposed to be BORN, not die. Too much "Time's Arrow" and "Benjamin Button"? But in Benjamin Button he died too. We all die. But he's not supposed to. He's supposed to fall into the imagination of Martin Amis and turn into a star in someone's heart, right?

The book couldn't have ended any other way, though. And I found myself laughing in places that I couldn't laugh in with BB or Lolita, but the voices of those two tales were woven in the warp so tightly I couldn't see them. I could only taste them, faintly, as though I were remembering a dish only my mother fixed on certain occasions. The funny parts made me cry--the journey of a very old man and a very YOUNG man, a couple of kids in ages and ages of years, and I had to cry immediately after I laughed, as though the laughter snapped me so tightly it hurt. The disappearances and reappearances of Alice. The San Francisco of old...say, Mr. Greer, I know where you're speaking of, I have been to Van Ness, I know how Franklin sits up the hill behind it, and I will imagine, if only for the length of the text, of that connection giving up gardens and fresh Victorian mansions and not box stores and chain restaurants. I find myself looking at San Franciscan light different, for someone else has seen it, too. In fact, an author, three characters of primary importance, and an earthquake, which was a character in its own right, saw my City. My quaint old City full of Latin and Danish and Jews and tradition brought to and even designed here. The book was a walk in the woods. The book was a walk in the strange. And the book was a walk in my own love affair.

Carrie Bradshaw, the main character of "Sex and the City," presented an article once to her "readers" of how the love of her life is New York City, not a man, even for all of its faults. I have issues with San Francisco and still look at it lovingly from out of a side-glance, waiting for it to hopefully grow up, praying that it never does. This City is so MESSY, so full of freaks hoping for recognition, and, if they can't get that, normalcy. I was most surprised that Max didn't sell his soul for the sake of standing out in this town of performers. But in the end of the graying pages of dusty attic papers Max is actually the epitime of circus performers. He is Normal Guy, or, as Springsteen would sing of him, "I am/The nothing man." His performance is to fit in, as his mother tells him, to be who they think he is.

And he succeeds in a street dance of pure poetry.

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