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Review: That Other Lifetime by Mark Maxwell

that other lifetime by mark maxwell Review: That Other Lifetime by Mark Maxwell

Mark Maxwell's first novel That Other Lifetime is a bewildering read. The novel recounts an imaginary scenario in which ex-president Richard Nixon and famous poet Raymond Carter meet at the end of their lives and strike up an odd and rambling conversation that's mediated by narrator (who is perhaps the author). The book comprises a series of short chapters that are ostensibly vignettes or outtakes from each man's life, although the author notes in the book's introduction that there is a large degree of blurring of the boundary of fact and fiction going on.

The book as a whole feels quite disjointed, and I can't say that Maxwell has succeeded drawing together these two men because of the similar thread of their backgrounds. However, the vignettes, taken separately, are frequently engaging, with some hilarious crassness stemming from Nixon and some painful introspection from Carver. Rather than approaching this book as a novel or a memoir, or really anything else that generally takes a longer form, readers might prefer to dip in and out of it as though it is a collection of vaguely related short stories. At just over 200 pages and full of sharp sentences and hairpin chapters, there's no doubt that That Other Lifetime is a single sitting read, but it's likely to appeal more to those with an absurdist bent and fans of Carver more than it will to a general audience.

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