Less by Andrew Sean Greer

My quarantine reading continues today with Andrew Sean Greer's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Less. This is one of those books that I felt almost obligated to read. It pretty much checks off most of the boxes for the kinds of books I wish there were more of. LQBTQ character? Check. Critical acclaim? Check. Heck, at a terse 260 or so pages, even the length seemed great. Still, as is all too common with too many of the books I buy, Less has sat on my bookshelf unread for a couple of years now. It even made it into the box of carefully curated books that made the move with me to my new house last month! And so, with a shelter in place order in effect for my county and only a finite number of Netflix shows to catch up on, it was finally time to dust off my copy and give this novel the read it very much deserved.

Arthur Less is a man on the brink of crisis. His longtime publisher has rejected his latest attempt at a novel, his former lover has announced his marriage to another man, and, perhaps most distressing of all, Less is about to have his 50th birthday. Things really couldn't be worse for this fabulously cosmopolitan man. At least his tailor-made blue suit still fits like a dream. Oh, there's one more thing. This former lover, the one who broke Less's heart and is marrying another man, has had the nerve to ask Less to attend the upcoming nuptials as a friend. The nerve of some people!

Not to worry though. Less has a plan. He conveniently has a stack of requests for his appearance at multiple literary events that span the globe. Normally Less would carefully peruse the invitations, accepting the ones that were either the most prestigious or the most lucrative, but this emergency is no time for caution. Less enthusiastically accepts each offer, a move that will conveniently see him on the other side of the world for his 50th birthday and the dreaded wedding of his ex-lover. What could possibly go wrong?

I think that readers' enjoyment of Andrew Sean Greer's Less will hinge upon their ability to empathize with the titular character. He's not likable in the traditional sense, and I think that may make it a bit hard for readers to connect with him. As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I initially struggled to see beyond the stereotypical aspects of this character as a gay man. They were good for some brief chuckles, but there had to be more for me to invest in this story. Fortunately, I stuck with Mr. Less and was able to find a completely fulfilling and beautiful narrative as I went on his journey. Beyond the surface level satire lies a very raw and intimate portrait of a man dealing with aging, love, and loss. The depiction of one of Less's former relationships is probably one of the most realistic that I've ever read. My biggest takeaway from the novel is that ultimately life hinges upon love and human connection. Nothing more and nothing less.

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.
(2020, 8)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

28 Responses to “Less by Andrew Sean Greer”

  1. Even if Less isn't always a particularly likable character, he obviously has plenty of redeeming qualities. And the themes of aging, love and loss are ones that almost all of us can relate to. Great review, Ethan.

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    1. They really are all such universal themes.

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  2. I think Less had a brilliant idea for dealing with some common disappointments in life. Get out and get busy, well after the shelter-in-place order stops, that is! It's always nice to conquer a book you've had languishing on the shelf for so long and have it be a win!

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  3. Aren't you glad you have unread books hanging around your house during all these shelter-in-place orders? I know I am. :D

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    1. I am! I'm also happy to have so many physical books. After working from home on my computer, it is nice to not look at a screen!

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  4. Excellent review! I've seen this book around but never knew what it was about. It sounds like something I'd like! Stay safe and healthy!

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    1. It was a nice change of pace from my usual reads.

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  5. I got the chance to read Less when it first came out and I think it hit as a right book for right mood. I was particularly struck by Less' journey that happened on two levels at that time in his life. Looks like you took away some strong salient bits.

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    1. I agree that you need to be in the right mood to get the most out of this one.

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  6. I am glad that you stuck with it and were rewarded.

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  7. It's a bit too bad about the stereotypical aspects you had at first but it looks still looks good

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  8. I love that this book is ultimately about love and human connection. It sounds it a great read once you get past the stereotypical aspects.

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  9. I am ok with a character coming off less than likable as long as they grow, and I like them by the end. It sounds like that happens in this story. I was curious if this was OwnVoices, since you spoke a little bit about the rep, but I cannot tell from the author's bio.

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    1. I just did a quick search of OwnVoices and was surprised I hadn't heard about this sooner!

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  10. I remember this cover: mostly bc I assumed it had something to do with Donald Trump given the blonde hair, suit and title LOL! It is however far more interesting than I thought -- and Less, seems like a character I can enjoy!

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    1. Ooh it kind of does look like Trump lol. Thankfully this is not about him at all!

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  11. I have seen this book around for a while but didn't know anything about it. I think that this is the first review that I have read for this book and it really does sound like it would be worth a try. I am glad that it turned out that you enjoyed the book since you made the effort to move it into your new home. Great review!

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    1. It has a pretty prominent spot on my bookshelf in the living room now!

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  12. Funny how we now use the word Quarantine Reading or anything with quarantine. I'd never expect something like that to happen.
    I've bought myself a shirt with the text: Talk Quarantine With Me.

    Hope you'll have more good reads and stay safe and healthy!

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    1. I think "quarantine" has a good chance of being the word of the year this year.

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  13. I have so many unread books on my shelves that I never have time for, but somehow I have even less time now?? How does that work? I know trying to homeschool my six-year-old is a huge time suck, but it seems like being stuck at home isn't conducive to a ton of reading time. ;)

    I haven't heard of this book, but I really like the cover and concept!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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