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As Max Saw It Paperback – April 11, 1995

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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"
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (April 11, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449909476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449909478
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,209,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the old fashioned tone of this novel. The main character, Max, is a kind of "fifth business," telling the story and having things happen to him without his really being involved. His friendship with Charlie deepens over the course of the book, effecting him in ways he never would have imagined. The writing and langauge are exceptional in a modern author. The characters in this short but intense book (145 pages) have a lot in common with those that appear in the Schmidt books where they are further fleshed out. I recommend all of Begley's books: I've read four this year.
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Format: Paperback
Reminiscent of The Great Gatsby yet 100% original at the same time, this novel has all the makings of a classic of American literature. This is a novel of epic proportions, packed into less than 150 pages. It spans three decades and traverses three continents. It is beautifully paced, at times flowing like a gentle stream, offering nuanced, elegant prose and character development, then switching purposefully and gracefully into much broader brush strokes to account for the passage of time. This is the book for which Begley will be remembered several generations from now.
As with the great first-person narrators in classics like Brideshead Revisited and Fifth Business, Max Strong is a keen yet passive observer, comfortable enough blending into the scenery so as not to obstruct the reader's view of the novels fascinating characters. Charlie, the brilliant, extravagant architect with an ego to match his talent, bobs in and out of Max's life, first appearing at an Italian villa where he and Max have been invited as guests, then in Beijing where Max has offered his legal expertise while on sabbatical from Harvard Law School, then again in Cambridge, MA and the Berkshires where Max works and vacations respectively. Their relationship is both antagonistic and co-dependent, as Max serves as conscience and confessor for Charlie in regard to the latter's romantic involvement with Toby, the young, attractive, and troubled youth that Charlie takes under his wing. And yet, while Max rarely asserts himself as anything more than an astute narrator, the book is just as much about him as it is about those that he observes.
It is a remarkable accomplishment that Begley has expressed so much beauty in so few pages. His settings and his characters sing with authenticity, and his prose offers the perfect current to carry his flawlessly-crafted story.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having read this entire series, and I thoroughly enjoy how Louis Begley develops his characters and the story. He is a graceful writer and as with all the books in this series, a lovely read. But the main character is not someone that could be admired.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was somewhat underwhelmed by the book. The writing was wonderful, the story somewhat less so. It didn't leave me with the feeling to read more of the author
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