Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Andrew Sean Greer


Arthur Less is turning 50 and he’s at the edge of a crisis: his writing career has stalled and his former younger lover, Freddy Pelu, is getting married. To guarantee he’ll be out of the country on the day of the wedding, Less accepts a string of unusual writerly engagements that take him around the world. His goal? Forget Freddy and rework the novel his publisher has taken a pass on.

In a comedic series of travel mishaps, misunderstandings, and logistical miracles, Less bumbles through his itinerary and third-tier engagements, mixing it up with authors, appearing on panels, teaching a college class, riding camels and attending obscure awards ceremonies. He’s both running and searching, trying to understand the two big long-term romantic relationships in his life, one with famous poet Robert Brownburn, 25 years his senior, and of course with Freddy. Like Less, many of the characters in the book wonder whether to wait for love or settle for companionship and security. And like Less, some have left or been dropped when something else comes along.

Less is also plagued by an early review of his first book, which describes him as “a magniloquent spoony.” “It’s like a code,” he says to Robert. “Is he sending messages to the enemy?” Robert responds, “Arthur, he’s just calling you a faggot.” Greer questions the subtle rules about being a gay writer. Less isn’t self-conscious about being gay, but he doesn’t like when people call his writing foolish and tenderhearted. “It’s not that you’re a bad writer. It’s that you’re a bad gay,” comments a friend. “It is our duty to show something beautiful from our world. The gay world. But in your books, you make the characters suffer without reward.” Less isn’t sure the two are related.

What’s interesting about this symbolic journey is that, while the whole trip is Less’s doing, he is a passive traveler, here and throughout his life. Crazy things happen to him along the way, yet he always makes it to the next engagement and sometimes he’s the star of the show. Happy luck – it’s one of his most endearing characteristics, for readers and for all of the people in his life.

Readers hope there will be happiness at the end of Less’s journey. Will the second half of his life mirror the comedy of his youth?

I loved this book and highly recommend it to lovers of fiction. It’s described as a romcom and I’d agree, but only on the surface. There’s a lot to this book and the humor takes you there.

I’d read another book by Greer about five years ago, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells and thought it was excellent, so when I saw that Greer (and Less) won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, I knew I wanted to read it. This book is funny, happy, sad and, I think, universal in appeal. The struggles of Less’s characters apply to everyone, regardless of orientation. Greer is the type of author who can do that. While the majority of Amazon readers liked the book, others were unsure. To round out my review, here are a few WordPress bloggers’ opinions.

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
MatthewSean Reviews
The Free-Range Book Club

Have you read Less? What did you think? Leave a comment below.

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33 thoughts on “Less by Andrew Sean Greer

    1. Me too, Jill. For me, it’s like getting the inside view. I hope you enjoy it when you get to read it. Hope you’re staying warm down there – pretty chilly (15) here right now! 😬

    1. Oh good! If you read it, definitely review it and/or let me know what you think – some people think it’s too light to get an award – totally disagree. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  1. Excellent review, Barbara. I’ve seen mixed reviews on this one. On my list! Thank you for sharing and hope you’re doing well, friend. ♥️

  2. Barbara, I have no idea how this book is not on my radar! Your excellent review has ensured it flies to the top of my list of books to read (I see Christmas list here!) Touching, deep, searching! And all about a writer!

    I enjoyed going through the Pulitzer Prize winners list and have read some, and I’m intrigued by The Overstory and its concept … one to try!😀 Happy Reading and Reviewing! I picked up an Isabella Allende book through Netgalley – I feel I could write a book about the novel and trying to imagine how to encompass it all in a brief review! Never felt quite this daunted before!😀

    1. I love books like that. As for all the Pulitzer winners, I haven’t read many but I think I’m going to go back and make an effort. I hope you like Less if you decide to read it. People who’ve criticized it say it’s too fluffy to receive the prize. I totally disagree because under the funny prose are many serious ideas. That’s what (imo) makes it so good. Thanks for reading and commenting, Annika!

  3. Wonderful review. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while now — I loved the Greta Wells book and also The Confessions of Max Tivoli.

    1. I’m going to read The Confessions of Max Tivoli – that got great reviews too. I don’t normally like time travel books, but I thought Greta Wells was excellent and very clever/original. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa 🙂

    1. Hi Jennifer, I hope you do enjoy it if you read it. It’s a pretty fast read. I was laughing out loud (LOL) and my family was wondering what was so funny! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. Oh, I’m so glad to hear someone else really liked this book. It got mixed reviews. I felt reviewers were judging harshly because maybe they were expecting something more serious for a Pulitzer Prize winner. Of course I disagree because there were a lot of serious themes hidden behind the humor – to me, that’s what made the book so good. Thanks so much for stopping by, Charley. Hope you are doing well across that pond! 🙂

      1. I agree. People sometimes just read it at a surface level. It’s like in real life, people hide behind humour as a defence mechanism.
        The pond is very wet!! Hope you’re well x

  4. I loved Less! I loved the honesty that came through in his thoughts and how the writing style poked fun at the characters while endearing them to us at the same time. Sometimes it reminded me of Dickens because of that. The part when Less went to Germany while figuring he was fluent in German really made me laugh. Your review made me want to read it all over again. I’m glad you enjoyed it too!

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