As Max Saw It

As Max Saw It

by Louis Begley
     
 

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"[A] perfectly constructed novel.... The time is 1974, and Max, who is fleeing from the wreckage of his first marriage, is a summer-house guest on Lake Como, where he encounters the two characters who will shape his life over the next 20 years: Charlie Swan, a Harvard classmate from the 1950s turned famous architect...and Toby, a poised and polymorphous teenager who…  See more details below

Overview

"[A] perfectly constructed novel.... The time is 1974, and Max, who is fleeing from the wreckage of his first marriage, is a summer-house guest on Lake Como, where he encounters the two characters who will shape his life over the next 20 years: Charlie Swan, a Harvard classmate from the 1950s turned famous architect...and Toby, a poised and polymorphous teenager who is soon to become Charlie's protege and lover."     --Time


BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Louis Begley's Memories of a Marriage.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This piercingly observed and brilliant novel combines the ambience of Begley's The Man Who Came Late with some of the underlying themes of his Wartime Lies . Max Strong leads a life of privilege: a Harvard Law professor, he is also the author of a bestselling book, the unexpected heir of a sizable estate and the friend of jet-setting architects, moguls and diplomats. As narrator he devotes equal time to chronicling his own experiences and describing his intersections with Charlie Swan, a Harvard classmate with whom he is reunited one summer when both are guests at a villa at Lake Como. While Max, approaching 50, can say that his past has been ``unperceived, really not felt,'' Charlie is extravagant with his emotions, loudly exercising his passions. Max watches as Charlie becomes deeply involved with Toby, a breathtaking young man whom Max describes as ``Eros himself.'' When Toby gets AIDS--unnamed here but unmistakable--Max learns from Charlie what it means to endure, to survive and to surrender. Begley disarms the reader with his elegant prose, his ample sentences and ornate syntax cushioning the keenness of his perceptions. In the end, however, the reader, like Max, is forced to confront himself in the role of bystander and onlooker: Begley takes the measure not only of his characters, but also of his audience. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Like Begley's second novel, The Man Who Was Late (LJ 12/92), this new work features a privleged outsider. Max is a Harvard graduate currently teaching at the law school, but he doesn't have the ease that great wealth brings to so many of his friends. He still feels like an outsider when he attends a reunion of sorts at a classmate's villa on Lake Como, where he becomes reacquaited with the nearly mythic Charlie and his young assistant, Toby. During a chance encounter a year later in Beijing, Max discovers that Charlie and Toby are lovers. The story that unfolds focuses on the travails of Charlie and Toby's relationship and Toby's eventual death due to AIDS, with a sidetrip concerning the implications of Max's unexpected new wealth. Begley's writing is as readable and fluid as ever, but the story goes by so quickly that we barely have time to get a feeling for the characters before it is all over. Charlie's final sacrifice for Toby is, however, powerfully rendered. Less than fully satisfying but of interest to most collections because of Begley's reputation. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/94.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
Donna Seaman
Beneath Begley's almost mocking suavity lurks a bitter recognition of life's messier truths. This is his third novel, and lawyer-novelist ({à}a la Louis Auchincloss) Begley has turned it up a notch. Max, a Harvard law professor who never breaks a sweat, is on vacation at an Italian villa when a former classmate, Charlie Swan, resurfaces. Swan, loud, bullying, and greedy, is now a celebrated architect and an almost discreet homosexual, though he's traveling with a startlingly beautiful boy named Tony. Whereas Swan is irrepressible and dramatic, Max is patient and subtle, claiming that although relationships don't "stick" to him, he is intrigued by obligations. These are keys both to Max's character and to the themes that Begley explores within various problematic sexual relationships. Unfazed by time and place, Begley compresses some 15 years into this sleek tale, gliding seamlessly from the Watergate era to the age of AIDS, and unceremoniously deposits his smitten readers in locales as far-flung as Boston and Beijing. He also cultivates a certain amount of smugness in his readers, then smashes it utterly, leaving us scrambling to catch up as he strides ahead, impeccable and imperturbable.
From the Publisher
"[A] Perfectly Constructed Novel...The time is 1974, and Max, who is fleeing from the wreckage of his first marriage, is a summer-house guest on Lake Como, where he encounters the two characters who will shape his life over the next 20 years: Charlie Swan, a Harvard classmate from the 1950s turned famous architect...and Toby, a poised and polymorphous teenager who is soon to become Charlie's protege and lover."

— Time

"Elegant And Powerful...Charlie Swan is a grand invention — a big, booming American who bears evidence of Begley's admiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Begley does a superb job of gradually involving Max, his narrator and Charlie's friend, as a loving witness and an inseparable participant....[A] startling feat."

— The New Yorker

"Elegantly Wrought...As Max Saw It, without ever mentioning the word, confronts AIDS and the bravery, sacrifice, commitment and horror it engenders....Pain there may be, but such sublime writing as this can make us cry as well."

— Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Begley Remains A Writer Of High-Order Virtue — smart about the secret movements of the heart, keen to know the last lies we cling to, and unafraid to tell us the dire truths central to our business of living and loving....This is a novel about the gulf between sense and sensitivity, the difference between wisdom and intelligence."

— The Miami Herald

"Begley's Impeccable Artistry Spins A Magical Web of shared consciousness not only for his characters, but for our time....Begley shows he is a consummate stylist."

— USA Today

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307775948
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/15/2010
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
File size:
2 MB

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