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Sometimes I step back from my bridge game, adjust my bifocals, put down my pipe, and think that maybe I’m an old soul trapped in a young man’s body. Though those thoughts usually melt away as I wash down Cocoon: The Return with a tall glass of prune juice, the title character in Andrew Sean Greer’s new novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, isn’t so lucky. When Max comes out of the womb, he has the freakish countenance of a wrinkle-faced monster. As the result of a not-quite-explained disorder involving cells or something, as Max gets older on the inside, his body looks increasingly youthful. This reverse-chronology life presents some special conundrums: How do you fake your way through a conversation with an adult? How do you woo a girl your own age without looking like a pedophile? Unlike characters in most films and novels in the age-swap genre, Max shares his freaky Fridays with no one. Though Greer’s deployment of flowery language can become a bit tiresome, his clear-eyed depictions of intergenerational behavior patterns offer subtle emotional impact and insight into Max’s often heartbreaking solo journey. The author’s fantastical premise may reek of the high-concept, but the novel ultimately succeeds in sussing out what’s universal about a unique condition. Greer reads at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11, at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Josh Levin)