Greer, Andrew Sean 1970-
GREER, Andrew Sean 1970-
CAREER: Author. Has worked as a chauffeur, television extra, and theater technician.
How It Was for Me (short stories), Picador USA (New York, NY), 2000.
The Path of Minor Planets (novel), Picador USA (New York, NY), 2001.
The Confessions of Max Tivoli (novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor to periodicals, including Esquire, Paris Review, and Story.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Andrew Sean Greer's first fiction work is a book of eleven stories titled How It Was for Me. Keith Banner reviewed the work for Lambda Book Report, calling Greer "a lyrical writer who luxuriates in moments, a purveyor of delicacies and epiphanies, and while he does sometimes imitate writers who don't really need to be imitated . . . he often accomplishes moments of Chekhovian power and grace. The guy can write." Banner singled out "Four Bites," in which a man remembers bites of food he could not swallow, a metaphor for the disappointments of life that can still be remembered and savored. Banner, who said these story made him tearful, added that he "could feel Greer working at the top of his powers." Food is also a metaphor in "The Art of Eating," in which a female companion to an eccentric, elderly man eats the foods he loves but can no longer eat, and then describes the experiences to him. Furman, the handsome widower in "The Walker," enjoys being an escort to upper-class women, while "The Future of the Flynns" simply describes a family eating at an Italian restaurant. Banner also praised the touching "Come Live with Me and Be My Love," in which a 1960s upper-class man and woman who are gay and lesbian marry for convenience's sake. As time passes and their orientations become more acceptable, they find it impossible to dissolve the relationship, which has become strong over time.
Greer followed his short story collection with two novels, The Path of Minor Planets and The Confessions of Max Tivoli. The Path of Minor Planets was called "a brainy debut novel" by Library Journal critic Beth E. Anderson. The story begins in 1965, when astronomer Swift invites his friends and colleagues, including another astronomer who wants half credit for the discovery, to assemble with him on an island in the South China Sea to watch the comet he has named after himself. When a young child dies in a falling accident, it seems to set the tone for the lives of the characters, who meet every six years for a repeat viewing. Partners change and marriages are threatened, all of which is observed by Swift's young daughter, Lydia. A Publishers Weekly contributor, who found Lydia to be the most "distinctive and memorable" character, also noted that Greer "has done his astronomy homework, and the cosmological background lends the story breadth and texture."
The Confessions of Max Tivoli begins in 1871 in San Francisco. Max comes into the world as a time-altered person who begins life physically as an old man and whose body becomes younger as time passes. His mind, however, is that of a baby at birth, and advances in the normal manner. His grandmother estimates that his body will reach the point of birth in 1941, at which time, he will die. Max's father disappears, mentally, when the boy is sixteen, after which his pregnant mother leaves upper-class Nob Hill for South Park, their previous residence. She and Max present themselves as sister and brother-in-law, and one of the few people who know of Max's strange secret is his friend, Hughie.
Max falls in love with fourteen-year-old Alice, daughter of the widow Levy downstairs, but since his teenage brain is in the body of a man in his fifties, he instead allows the widow to seduce him, so that he can be closer to Alice. When he kisses Alice, her mother takes her away, with Alice reappearing when she and Max are both in their thirties. He does not let her know his identity, however, because they are now equals, though not for long. They marry, but as Max's body becomes more youthful, Alice's role changes to that of a mother.
John Updike reviewed The Confessions of Max Tivoli in the New Yorker, writing that "young-old Max's early memories are richly entwined with the animal wonders of San Francisco's Woodward's Gardens, one of the many local sights that Greer revives, with an eerie sensory omniscience, from the dry pages of research. He is one of numerous young-old contemporary writers . . . to whom time past is an open book, a theme park in which they wander with a child's delight in gaudiness and violence." Updike commented on Greer's "remarkably confident acquaintance with female clothes of the era 1880-1930, as well as, in the epithet 'trickle,' the gemmy sparkle of his prose." Updike added that "with no evident effort, he works into his intricately unfolding narrative such startling bygone details as 'a newspaper still warm from the butler's iron' and 'a saloon owner with a gold cane and vulcanized rubber fillings in his smile' and 'the latest Paris fashion: a live beetle, iridescently winged, attached to her dress with a gold chain.'" In a Publishers Weekly review, a critic concluded that Greer "writes marvelously nuanced prose; with its turn-of-the-century lilt and poetic flashes, it is the perfect medium for this weird, mesmerizing, and heartbreaking tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2001, Gavin Quinn, review of The Path of Minor Planets, p. 298.
Entertainment Weekly, February 6, 2004, Jennifer Reese, review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, p. 153.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of The Path of Minor Planets, p. 1148; December 1, 2003, review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, p. 1372.
Lambda Book Report, July, 2000, Keith Banner, review of How It Was for Me, p. 16.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of How It Was for Me, p. 165; October 15, 2001, Beth E. Andersen, review of The Path of Minor Planets, p. 106; February 1, 2004, Marc Kloszewski, review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, p. 123.
New Criterion, May, 2004, Max Watman, review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, p. 58.
New Yorker, January 26, 2004, John Updike, review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, p. 90.
People, March 1, 2004, Joe Heim, review of TheConfessions of Max Tivoli, p. 53.
Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2000, review of HowIt Was for Me, p. 170; September 24, 2001, review of The Path of Minor Planets, p. 65; December 8, 2003, review of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, p. 43.
Andrew Greer Home Page,http://www.andrewgreer.com (August 21, 2004).*