Book Review: Less

by Andrew Sean Greer
Contemporary Fiction
261 pages
Published 2017

Less is a good name for this book, because that’s how I found it. Less than the love story it is purported to be. Less interesting than people say it is. Less funny than reviews would have me believe. Less than I was expecting. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, apparently? Maybe I just don’t “get” contemporary fiction. Because unless it’s YA, I very, VERY rarely like it. I didn’t like Arthur Less. None of his misadventures were that funny.

The book was a little meta; Arthur is told that the book he’s writing isn’t that interesting because his protagonist, a middle aged gay white man, isn’t interesting and no one cares about him. Which is exactly how I feel about Arthur Less. He’s a middle aged gay white man with the means to travel the world, and a boyfriend who would have married him if he’d only, I don’t know, asked. But he just floats through his life a little melancholy and woe is me. And not in the like actually depressed kind of way. Just – meh.

Arthur is BORING. Arthur is privileged, and boring, and annoying as all hell. This book just makes me want to avoid Pulitzer Prize winners. Who awards these prizes, and WHY? Also why does everybody rave about books like this?

Blargh. Don’t bother with this book. People who say it made them laugh out loud don’t know what they’re talking about, or perhaps haven’t read actually funny books. They should read something by Ellen, or Trevor Noah, or Tiffany Haddish. THEY’RE ACTUALLY FUNNY.

From the cover of Less:

Who says you can’t run away from your problems?

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes – it would be too awkward; and you can’t say no – it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

Question: How do you arrange to skip town?

Answer: You accept them all.

What could possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer in residence at a Christian retreat center in southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings, and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, and a bittersweet romance of chances lost by an author the New York Times has hailed as “lyrical,” “elegiac,” and “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” Less shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.

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