Sunday, September 23, 2007

The New Yorker: "The Maserati Years" by Maxim Biller

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

3 comments:

Mary Akers said...

I enjoyed it--for the most part. It felt a bit...oh, I don't know...maybe "pat" is the word I want? Behind the chuckle at the end there was also a feeling of, "Oh, so the whole story was a setup for this." In a way, we as readers experience a set up much like the main character does.

Mark said...

I really enjoyed “The Mahogany Elephant" so I am looking forward to reading "The Maserati Years." So many New Yorker short storis are really long. Which is fine. But I enjoyed his crisp style.

Laura said...

When I finished it, my reaction was, "What's the point?" This person is leading a lazy, selfish, pointless life and is the same at the beginning as at the end. The girlfriend was certainly no prize, either -- but she, at least, wasn't the central character.