Author: Andrew Sean Greer
Genre: Humor, Literary Fiction
I came across Less in a bookstore, and noting it was a Pulitzer Prize winner and a New York Times bestseller, I decided to give it a try. Are you looking for something different to read? This book will fit the bill.
Less is the story of Arthur Less (yes, the name is descriptive), a single, middle-aged, gay novelist from California. After having spent several years as the partner of a much more famous writer, Arthur’s most recent partner, a younger man, has left him to marry a man closer to his own age. Arthur feels he can’t go to the wedding, but neither can he really decline. To avoid having to choose, Arthur decides to accept several of the invitations he often receives to speak or teach about his work and the work of his former, much more famous author partner, who is now in a retirement home unable to travel. So begins the months-long journey of Arthur Less to places like Morocco, Italy, Paris, India, Germany and Japan, thus providing Arthur with a “sorry, I will be out of the country” excuse to miss the wedding and providing the author a wide variety of settings and cultures to explore.
Throughout the book, Arthur is philosophical and sometimes funny, sort of like a gay and slightly more sedate Woody Allen. Although Arthur and I seemingly have very little in common, the way the author portrays him, he was very much an “everyman” character. He remembers embarrassing things from his past that still bother him, he conjectures in his head about people he meets, and he recalls how he first met old friends. Don’t we all do those things almost every day? Perhaps it is because he is an author himself that these thoughts come to Arthur’s mind, but I found that side of him charming and universal.
Arthur Less has a little bit of a free spirit side – he is after all a single, gay man, i.e., no kids, no obligations – so he wanders into a few unexpected and sometimes funny situations. But he continues on his trip undaunted by any of it and fulfills his authorial obligations while finding a couple of romantic interludes along the way.
All that said, the author’s writing is very good, albeit tricky in a couple of places – he occasionally uses a word I not only didn’t know but had no idea it was actually a word, sending me to the online dictionary only to find out it was probably the perfect word. In only 260 pages, Andrew Sean Greer serves up a quirky, insightful and interesting story different from anything I’d ever read. I’d put it in the top ten of my list of favorites for 2018. Check it out!