Tom is an aging, difficult actor working in Berlin and he’s also an inconsiderate lover who has been left a message by his girlfriend that she’s pregnant. He is paralyzed, in part by what a baby will mean for him: child support, and the need to sell his Maserati to pay for it. He’s not concerned about the girl and he’s not concerned about the baby. He’s not concerned about the other actors on the film he’s supposed to be working on, but then it’s clear that he’s got a lousy reputation anyway. He’s so self-absorbed that he is timing his actions on the basis of how often he sees the clouds of his breath in his cold flat. And then he gets a call with further news, and I suspect most readers cheer or at least chuckle. I did. This is a point-of-view character who is completely unsympathetic, but still engaging because . . . why? He’s completely self-centered and also unreliable in the extreme. He tries to convince himself that he’s indispensable, but he knows that isn’t true. He wants to believe that every filmmaker wants to work with him, but he knows that isn’t true either. And in the end, he’s no more self aware than he was at the outset. Yet I found this story far more successful than “The Mahogany Elephant” the Biller story that appeared in TNY earlier this year, possibly because this character gets exactly what he deserves, even if he doesn’t know it. I wonder how others feel?
September 24, 2007: “The Maserati Years” by Maxim Biller