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

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

If you are Arthur Less.

Thus begins an around-the-world-in-eighty-days fantasia that will take Arthur Less to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India and Japan and put thousands of miles between him and the problems he refuses to face. What could possibly go wrong?

Well: Arthur will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Sahara sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and arrive in Japan too late for the cherry blossoms. In between: science fiction fans, crazed academics, emergency rooms, starlets, doctors, exes and, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to see. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. The second phase of life, as he thinks of it, falling behind him like the second phase of a rocket. There will be his first love. And there will be his last.

A love story, a satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “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.

272 pages, ebook

First published July 18, 2017

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About the author

Andrew Sean Greer

19 books2,590 followers
Andrew Sean Greer (born 1970) is an American novelist and short story writer.

He is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage, which The New York Times has called an “inspired, lyrical novel,” and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award.

The child of two scientists, Greer studied writing with Robert Coover and Edmund White at Brown University, where he was the commencement speaker at his own graduation, where his unrehearsed remarks, critiquing Brown's admissions policies, caused a semi-riot. After years in New York working as a chauffeur, theater tech, television extra and unsuccessful writer, he moved to Missoula, Montana, where he received his Master of Fine Arts from The University of Montana, from where he soon moved to Seattle and two years later to San Francisco where he now lives. He is currently a fellow at the New York Public Library Cullman Center. He is an identical twin.

While in San Francisco, he began to publish in magazines before releasing a collection of his stories, How It Was for Me. His stories have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Yorker and other national publications, and have been anthologized most recently in The Book of Other People, and The PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2009. His first novel, The Path of Minor Planets, was published in 2001.

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5 stars
41,934 (23%)
4 stars
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3 stars
50,032 (28%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 20,263 reviews
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 63 books167k followers
December 27, 2017
What a soft-hearted bastard of a novel.

It's the story of a failed — failing — novelist about to turn fifty. His long-time lover is marrying someone else, and he's been invited to the wedding. To avoid the whispers and rumors that would abound, he takes the only course of action he can imagine: accepting every literary invitation he's been putting off, a journey that will take him around the globe and well away from the wedding of the man he loved. Loves.

It had me from the first page, and I'm not even precisely sure why. The prose is wonderful, to be sure. Playful, rollicking, sly, observant. The main character, the anxious and vain Arthur Less, is boyish and gentle and smart and I adore him. The narrator (whose identity I guessed with increasing hope and anticipation as the pages went on) guides us skillfully through present events and past ones, uncovering the parts of Less that need to become More in order to find happiness. The settings —San Francisco, New York, France, India, Japan — are wondrously and precisely evoked. Side characters caper in with delicious specificity and purpose, both thematic and human. Is one of those aspects what I loved? Is all of them what I loved?

I actually think I loved it because of what it believes. There's a line in the book — I had to fetch it to quote it exactly — that I think is what the book says on every page:

"Just for the record: happiness is not bullshit."

That belief in happiness and love is what makes this novel a comfort read. Every character is desperately flawed and every setting has a rainy day and every relationship is complicated, but its over-arching naive and wavering pursuit of happiness is what made this book feel like something I wanted to curl up in for a long time.

I'll be rereading this one many times.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 121 books155k followers
May 1, 2018
I wanted to dislike this book for petty reasons grounded in irrationality but it's quite a brilliant novel, with exceptional writing and a depth of character rarely seen in fiction. I'm also surprised I loved this book because I hate books about writers.

Less is a frustrating man who gets in his own way all too often. There were many times when I wanted him to get his head out of his ass. Also, the narration doesn't quite work until the very end and then it all makes sense so I had to go back and read certain parts. But it's fine. As a middle-aged midlist writer, Arthur Less's laments are many. He needs money. His long term not boyfriend is getting married. And so he fashions an itinerary that will have traveling the world and as he travels the world, we learn of how he comes to this moment in his life, turning fifty, alone, full of longing. There is a lot that is funny and relatable about the writing life. In the end though, this is one of the most satisfying love stories I've ever read. As I read the last few pages this morning, I found myself crying. I found myself believing that love always finds a way. I admire any book that can remind me of that in a largely cynical world.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books485 followers
January 30, 2018
There is no story ... the main character is totally uninteresting and evokes no positive feelings ... the writing is competent but snarky, and also repetitive ... the tour guide information, country after country, is paper-thin and offers no particular insights
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,401 reviews8,124 followers
June 21, 2018
Less follows almost fifty-year-old Arthur Less, a not-so-popular novelist whose boyfriend of the past nine years is about to marry someone else. When Less gets the wedding invite, he decides to skip town and travel all around the world to different literary events. We accompany Less as he adventures to Paris, Berlin, India, and more.

Cutting to the chase: I did not like this book. Certain elements had potential, such as Less's fear of aging and his emotions surrounding past romantic relationships. But these avenues for character growth received little exploration. Instead, Less travels around the world to avoid confronting any and all of his internal issues. Though he encounters situations during his travels that remind him of his age and his romantic woes, he does not walk away from these situations with much or any insight about himself, how he could grow, etc. I feel like I just read 272 pages of a man who feels angsty, uses his resources to travel around the world, and then gets a happy ending with little to no actual agency or self-development on his part. I say the following with some frustration but mostly confusion: I literally did not understand the point of this novel.

I also found Less such a privileged, oblivious character. He is tall, attractive, white, able-bodied, and can afford to travel. His privilege is not examined in any interesting or meaningful way. I appreciated his vulnerability about his negative emotions surrounding his age, his writing, his love life, etc. but again none of these sources of internal conflict are approached in a way that connected me to Less. I wanted to see more of his journey to address his issues and not just his travels, surface-level conversations, and thoughts about romantic relationships.

While I took pleasure in finally finishing this book I take little pleasure in writing negative reviews, so here's hoping to a better read in the future. I'm going to discuss this one at a book club tomorrow and with a close friend so maybe those conversations will shift my perspective. Either way, unfortunately I would not recommend this novel.
Profile Image for Boris.
404 reviews152 followers
May 2, 2018
Go home, Pulitzer jury, you're drunk.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,849 reviews34.9k followers
October 31, 2019
SHARING & REVIEWING:

I can’t believe I’m writing this review the same day I came home from surgery.... but other than a little tire - I’m feeling ‘great’.....happy with what my surgeon did. After 3 surgeries last year for skin cancer - the loss of a half of a nose - a slice down my forehead- today was my first ‘repair’ surgery. I’m blown away - my nose ‘almost’ looks normal. Wow...such a ‘huge’ difference already. Sure - I need to heal- stitches and such - but it’s a miracle what the surgeon did. Really a miracle! I may not even do the second surgery that was originally planned for the fall. I think I’m happy enough just with what the doctor did today.
People around town can stop looking at me now like ‘what the f#@k happened to you? And stop telling me ....”if it were them, they would just stay home with a bag over their head”.
But Paul says....”Now I won’t have to continue living with the alien nose any longer”.

THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH TO ALL MY GOODREADS FRIENDS who watched me go through this - the support was SOOOOOOO appreciated!!!! DEEPLY APPRECIATED! I HOPE OTHERS ARE WEARING SUNBLOCK AND HATS WHEN OUT IN THE SUN!

I’ll be there for any of my friends too - in any way I can - to offer support back whenever comfort is wanted! Aging is not for the weak...and many of our reading friends are aging here together dealing with different medical challenges.
Reading books bring us together - and sometimes we need to ‘personally’ come together’!
Many thanks to the staff at Goodreads....for the ongoing dedication in having Goodreads be a place where readers and authors want to be!

So....ABOUT “LESS”, by Andrew Sean Greer.....
I met Andrew Sean Greer last year .... heard him speak when this book was first released, yet I only bought the like-new hardcopy for a $1 from my thrift store ( interesting coincidence) a short time before it won The Pulitzer Prize. CONGRATS TO ANDREW SEAN GREER BY THE WAY! Outstanding acknowledgment. Andrew must be flying high!

I LOVE THIS EXCERPT:

“ Arthur Less is the first homosexual ever to grow old. That is, at least, how he feels at times like these. Here, in this tub, he should be 25 or 30, a beautiful young man naked in a bathtub. Enjoying the pleasures of life. How dreadful if someone came upon naked Less today: pink to his middle, gray to his scalp, like those old double erasers for pencil and ink. He has never seen another gay man age past 50, none except Robert. He met them all at 40 or so but never saw them make it much beyond; they died of AIDS, that generation. Less’s generation often feels like the first to explore the land beyond 50. how are they meant to do it? Do you stay boy forever, and dye your hair and diet to stay lean and wear tight shirts and jeans and go out dancing until you drop dead at 80? Or do you do the opposite – – do you forswear all that, and let your hair go gray and wear elegant sweaters that cover your belly, and smile on past pleasures that will never come again? Do you marry an adopt a child? In a couple, do you each take a lover, like matching nightstands by the bed, so that sex will not vanished entirely? Or do you let sex vanish entirely, as heterosexuals do? Do you experience the relief of letting go of vanity, anxiety, desire, and pain? Do you become a Buddhist? One thing you certainly do not do. You do not take on a lover for nine years, thinking it is easy and casual, and, once he leaves you, disappear and end up alone in a hotel bathtub wondering what now”.

Author Less was a minor American author, known mostly for his connection to the Russian school of Artists, especially the poet & novelist, Robert Brownburn. His now ‘ex’ boyfriend.

Author was devastated over the break up with Robert - older than he - Pulitzer Prize Guy Genius....
Yet....looking back — living with Robert was often like living alone. Everything had to be sacrificed for the work. Plans had to be canceled, meals had to be delayed, there needed to be silence until noon, etc. Less was 2nd rate.

But now .....turning 50 with an invitation to Roberts’s wedding and a string of invitations to literary events around the world .....Less concludes the best way to avoid Roberts wedding is to accept ‘all’ the invites. Keep busy traveling.....
in Mexico, Italy (awww...countryside of autumn vineyards), Germany, ( take a young lover, Bastisn, who is arrogant, follows sports, and sneers at Literature & Art) plus Less grows a beard.
In France, Less falls under the spell of Javier. As they say their goodbyes .....Less is wishing and hoping to be asked to stay.
Off to Morocco....and a visit to a Swiss Ski lodge: more reason to feel sorry for himself..... then INDIA for more adventures at a Christian retreat ( sounds like Eat,Pray,Love).....haha!

Throughout the journey we take with Less - he taps into memories from the past.
He knows so well the pleasures of youth — the dangers, the excitement, the pills, the drinking, a strangers mouth, —-
——Less knows more calming pleasures too —as with Robert and his friends, the pleasures of age –– the comfort and ease, of old friends, and wine & whiskey, secrets, and shared stories.
Less danced between two worlds - the wild and safe.

In each country - Less meets new challenges....while reflecting on his life.

Lots of humor - sentences to think about & feel. At times the writing was too intellectual for ‘my’ easy comfort.....
but I experienced the sheer brilliance in this bittersweet book.....
making this priceLESS!!!

4.5
Profile Image for emma.
1,784 reviews42.8k followers
May 9, 2022
This is my favorite kind of story.

https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co...

It’s a rendition of life in its mundanities and monotony, a display of the fallacies and frustrations that make up our daily story, but one that refuses to flinch away from the breath-stealing beauty of it. The miraculousness and gorgeousness and fated magic of life.

And that type of story rarely wins awards. It is dismissed and mocked as treacly and feel-good. In all honesty I feel that if this book were written about or by a woman, it’d be relegated to a corner of by-rights-less-serious “women’s fiction,” called even a romantic comedy and never ever ever spoken of in the same sentence as the word Pulitzer.

But it is not overdone and tired to depict everyday life as wonderful and gorgeous. In fact, it’s the bravest story you can write.

That’s all I have to say.

Bottom line: How lovely.

----------
pre-review

reading this book was like:
sitting in a brightly lit room when the lights are suddenly extinguished, and there is a moment of discomfited surprise before the realization that you are actually quite tired, and the reprieve from the fluorescence is a loveliness and a mercy, and you settle into it and shut your weary eyes and the light has returned as abruptly as it was sent away.

i didn't want the beautiful vacation that was this story to end.

review to come / 5 stars

----------
currently-reading updates

don't mind me, just jumping on a bandwagon two years late
Profile Image for Glenn Sumi.
404 reviews1,493 followers
March 11, 2022
An Evening With Arthur Less (and yours truly):

I’ve been writing lots of traditional reviews for work lately, so I thought I’d try to make this one fun and entertaining to write... and hopefully read. If you’ll indulge me, here’s a Q&A with Arthur Less, the main character of Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Less.

First a bit of background. Less is a middle-aged, midlist novelist, who’s about to turn 50, and at the beginning of the book he’s just found out that Freddy, his younger lover/sorta boyfriend of the past nine years, is about to get married to another man. Rather than go to the wedding and risk humiliation (Freddy’s guardian/uncle is an old literary rival of Arthur’s), Less decides to accept every far-flung speaking engagement, short term academic position, awards invitation and writing assignment he’s been offered recently, resulting in an impromptu trip around the world.

So just imagine this fictional talk is one brief stop on his world tour. But, because Less is the subject of the book, and I’m not, I’m going to have Less interview
me about him. Confused? Read on.

***

Glenn Sumi: I'm here with Arthur Less, the author of several books, including his bold debut novel, Kalipso [polite applause] Mr. Less is also hero of Andrew Sean Greer's novel Less. Welcome!

Arthur Less: Thank you! It's good to be here. I believe Toronto is mentioned in the book.
GS: Indeed it is. I must say, you’re just how I imagined you! Blonde and slightly balding, boyish, with that striking blue suit featured on the dust jacket cover. Also, just as it’s pointed out in the book, you don’t look a day over 35.

AL [blushes]: Aw, thanks. But that’s also just being gay in North America, don’t you think?
GS: Perhaps. Also, I don’t know if you realize it, but some of your actions made me literally LOL (as we say online) even when I was in public.

AL: … um, laughing with me though, right? Not at me?
GS: Truthfully, it was a little of both. The section on “good” and “bad” gay writers was fantastic satire – and quite true. You were, you probably remember, once criticized for being a “bad gay writer,” i.e., one who makes his characters suffer without reward. There's another scene, I think in Italy, where there's a literary competition JUDGED BY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS! When I read that detail I almost spit up my orange juice in laughter. Oh, and when you're in Germany you speak to people in German but the author translates what you’re saying into a garbled English… such a cheap joke but it made me laugh every time.

AL: [shoots a deadpan expression to the audience] Well, I’m glad you had a good time. Languages aren’t really my forte. So tell me, what made you pick up the book in the first place?
GS: Oh, the Pulitzer win, of course. I also liked that it was a comic novel that actually was funny. I enjoy books about authors, too: neurotic but relatable. There are several scenes that are sort of just like what we're doing now: awkwardly talking onstage. And frankly, I can’t remember the last time an openly gay writer won the Pulitzer. Was it Michael Cunning--?

AL: - The Hours! Yes! What a lovely book. In a way I felt like this was a lighter version of that. Flashing back and forth. Finding the luminous – or is it the numinous? – in the everyday. Thinking about mortality. In a way it’s a journey, just like the book I’m writing in this book...
GS: Exactly! As one of the characters says, “All you do is write gay Ulysses.”

AL: [sighs] It was Freddy who said that. [pauses]Did you like Freddy?
GS: I did. But I also felt, early on, that he was one of the more underdeveloped things about the novel. Your relationship with him was sketched out so quickly at the beginning that I didn't realize you felt so strongly about him. But as the book went on, and bits were filled in, I believed the relationship more.

AL: What did you think of the narration?
GS: It took me a while to get used to. Halfway through, I figured out what the author - what your creator - was doing, and became intrigued.

AL: What about the way the author filled in my past with flashbacks?
GS: Very nicely done, well paced. I usually find flashbacks contrived, but these felt organic. They added texture and heft to the book. The scene where you meet the great love of your life, the poet Robert Brownburn, was just lovely. And quite surprising.

AL: Thank you. And how did you like the sections with Robert?
GS: They were some of my favourites, especially that one devastating passage about what it’s like to live with genius. I know I will reread that section many times. Such great concrete, authentic, everyday details.

Actually, at this point, I'm wondering if you could read the passage I'm thinking about.

AL: Certainly. [Arthur stands up and reads from the book he's in]:

What was it like to live with genius?
Like living alone.
Like living alone with a tiger.
Everything had to be sacrificed for the work. Plans had to be canceled, meals had to be delayed; liquor had to be bought, as soon as possible, or else all poured into the sink. Money had to be rationed or spent lavishly, changing daily. The sleep schedule was the poet's to make, and it was as often late nights as it was early mornings. The habit was the demon pet in the house; the habit, the habit, the habit; the morning coffee and books and poetry, the silence until noon. Could he be tempted by a morning stroll? He could, he always could; it was the only addiction where the sufferer longed for anything but the desired; but a morning walk meant work undone, and suffering, suffering, suffering. Keep the habit, help the habit; lay out the coffee and poetry; keep the silence; smile when he walked sulkily out of his office to the bathroom. Taking nothing personally. And did you sometimes leave an art book around with a thought that it would be the key to his mind? And did you sometimes put on music that might unlock the doubt and fear? Did you love it, the rain dance every day? Only when it rained.


[audience applauds]

GS: Thank you! Speaking of Robert, the scene where he learns he’s won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry was wonderful. Who knew that that scene would be prophetic, huh?

AL: Yes! I don’t know if the author who created me will quite get over it. Did you hear that hardcover sales have doubled since the Pulitzer win? Anyhow… did you like the few men I met in the various countries? Who was your favourite?
GS: Oh, that conversation with Javier on the balcony of the party in Paris, on the sudden stopover before you go to Marrakech. [a few lusty "woots!" from the audience] I’m sure I’m not the only reader who found it very romantic.

AL: It was quite something to be on that balcony. Did you like what the book said about love?
GS: I did. I understood why you wanted to avoid going to Freddy’s wedding. And I liked how you met all these people on your travels and how in a way they changed how you felt about your own situation. Zohra’s story in Morocco just gutted me. She’s the woman who turned 50 the day before you did.

AL: [quietly, looking down] Yes, I’ll never forget Zohra. [Looks up, his eyes moist] And what about my friend Lewis’s story, about his husband who made a pact to leave him after ten years?
GS: That made me cry it was so sad and beautiful.

AL: Wow, so this book I'm in really did make you laugh and cry! You’re not exaggerating?
GS: I’m not exaggerating. It made me think of lovers and friends in my own life. It made me think about getting older, especially as a gay man. And it also made me want to travel more.

AL: But not in an Eat, Pray, Love sort of way, right? [audience laughs nervously]
GS: No! I was briefly worried this book would become that. And you admit at times that no one wants to read about how a privileged white middle-aged guy thinks he’s suffering. But it transcended all that.

AL: Whew! Okay, well thanks for the chat. I need to catch a plane.
GS: Thank you. And I hope to meet you again… perhaps in a sequel?

AL: You’ll have to bug my author about that. After all the Pulitzer buzz dies down, perhaps he’ll sit down to write again. In the meantime…
GS: … yes, yes, I’m going to look up his earlier books!

AL: I think my author would like that!

[polite applause from the audience as Arthur Less and his interviewee leave the stage]
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
July 24, 2017
It's been said (in a catty way, of course) that after age 42 gay men become invisible, that no one wants an older gay man except, if they're lucky, another gay man. Andrew Sean Greer's beautifully moving but slightly uneven new novel, Less , deals with a man coming to terms approaching his 50th birthday, wondering if he'll ever find true love, and trying to define himself and his career. No small feat, there!

When he was in his early 20s, he was the boyfriend of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Brownburn, who was a member of the famed Russian River School of writers and artists. Even though the relationship ended after a few years, Arthur has always been defined somewhat as the former boyfriend of Robert Brownburn, even as he experienced a slight bit of renown in his own literary career. Robert will always be Arthur's first love, even though Arthur knows he frittered away the relationship as many much-younger gay men would.

As Arthur's 50th birthday approaches, he is in the midst of a crisis. His former boyfriend of nine years (this time he picked someone younger) is getting married to someone else, and Arthur has been invited to the wedding. His publisher isn't interested at all in his newest novel. And he wonders if he'll spend the rest of his life alone, unloved and unsuccessful. So he does what any self-effacing person would do: he flees the country.

But he's not running away. (Well, yes, he is.) He's pursuing a number of different literary opportunities across the globe, which will end with some time at a writer's retreat in India, where perhaps he will be able to fix what ails his novel. Along the way he travels to Mexico, Italy, Germany, France, and Morocco, plumbing the depths of his soul, looking back at the memories of relationships gone sour, and trying to figure out where he goes from here, and whether he's made the biggest mistakes of his life by simply deciding not to decide things, not to say things, not to do things.

How does a man who always seems to intrigue, always seems to provoke feelings in others, figure out his self-worth, and find the courage to act instead of waiting for things to happen to him? There are lessons to be learned in mistakes and failures, but does he want to learn those lessons? What awaits him on the other side of 50?

Less is an emotional, somewhat elegiacal meditation on aging, love, and one's professional and romantic legacy. It is at times poignant, at times funny, even a little ridiculous occasionally, but tremendously thought-provoking. Greer brings so much poetry and beauty to his sentences, and even if his main character is a somewhat elusive enigma, at least to the reader, his lamentations and his journey are utterly fascinating.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I felt as if so much of this story was so interesting, so moving, that I was a little irritated when the narrative veered into almost farcical and/or metaphysical territory a few times. In a sense you know how the story may ultimately unfold, but Greer makes you wait a really long time for the payoff, and there were a few moments I just wanted Arthur to stop moping, stop walking around with his head in the sand, and speak, or act, the way he knows he should.

I have been a huge fan of Greer's since reading his first story collection, How It Was for Me . While it took me a while to get into what is perhaps his most famous book, The Confessions of Max Tivoli , I absolutely loved his other books, The Path of Minor Planets, The Story of a Marriage , and The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells . He is an absolutely beautiful storyteller, and even though this book has some flaws, reading Greer's writing is like eating a fine meal or watching a beautiful movie or play—you just don't want it to end, you want to savor every minute.

NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 9 books862 followers
May 28, 2018
The writing was magnificent, the witticisms numerous, but couldn’t get into the all-over-the-place story.
Profile Image for Julie G .
858 reviews2,632 followers
September 14, 2018
Well, Mr. Andrew Sean Greer. . . looks like you and I will be meeting out for drinks after all.

What's that now? You're gay?

And I'm. . . married?

Whatevs.

Semantics, my friend. Mere semantics.

Let's meet out, Andrew, and start with appetizers. Let's have one of those fantastic first dates. . . you know. . . the rare, but fabulous kind, where you keep ordering food you're too nervous to eat, because the anticipation is building and all you can think about is the magnetic connection of lips.

And, I've seen your lips, Andrew, on the back of this book. Oh, I've seen your lips.

(Wow, this is getting really inappropriate. . . will she get to her point soon??)

But, lips are the point. Kisses are the point. Love is the point. The only point.

The only point: Arthur Less, falling. Falling on the cover. Falling on the street. Falling in love. . . over and over again. This is the point. Falling. Getting up again. Falling. Getting up again. Falling. . . falling. . . falling. Getting up again.

There is no greater pursuit than falling in love, whether it's falling in love with yourself, falling in love with someone you've fallen out of love with, or falling in love with someone new.

This book is the most delightful, most refreshing FUCK YOU to the “sham and drudgery” of our post-9/11 world. Fuck you, sham and drudgery!!

(And, look at you, Pulitzer panel!! Picking a book that doesn't make me want to kill myself. Picking a book that celebrates the power of love!!)

He kisses—how do I explain it? Like someone in love. Like he has nothing to lose. Like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can use only the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you. There are some men who have never been kissed like that. There are some men who discover, after Arthur Less, that they never will be again.
Profile Image for Jaidee .
560 reviews1,023 followers
July 3, 2022
5 "adorable, whimsical, emotional, hilarious, glorious" stars !!

The Silver Award Read of 2021 (second favorite read)

I have had a fifteen minute cry. A cry of hope, of sweetness, of sadness, of love.

I have been dreading saying goodbye to Arthur Less. I have wanted to comfort him, to soothe him.
Arthur Less, an adorable insecure neurotic gentleman. Heartbroken, he circles the world, coming to terms with the autumn of his life (50 years), his perceived failings!, his unprocessed griefs, his ever so full heart that both allures and repels others. To Mexico, to Germany, to Paris, to Morocco, to India, to Japan and back home again. I have been treated to getting to know Arthur Less personally, intimately even as he bumbles through life, his memories, his humiliations and passions. I grew to love Arthur Less, to appreciate him. I wanted to gently kiss him.

As I approach my own 50 (too soon, way too soon) I am comforted in knowing that Autumn is the most glorious season. She is wise and beautiful, chilly and sad, sleepy and mystical.

Arthur Less I toast you. You have been the most treasured of birthday gifts. To you Arthur Less and yes to Me as well.

This will be one of my most treasured reads...thank you Mr. Andrew Sean Greer !

Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,502 reviews24.5k followers
May 8, 2018
This is a beautifully written, lyrical, comic, often profound and moving Pulitzer winning novel, to me it often feels like a gay version of Eat, Pray, Love. A little known, gay and inconsequential writer, Arthur Less, is approaching 50 with fear, his body is displaying all the physical symptoms of getting older. In his mind, he is the first gay man to face the quandry of the aging process, he has known hardly any gay men who have lived to this age. His problems are intensified because his current amour has dropped him and he has received a wedding invitation from the love of his life, a famous celebrity poet, Robert, a man with whom he had a relationship for nine years. What to do? He just can't attend the wedding, so to distract himself he chooses to accept invites to literary events around the world in search of himself and who he is.

On his meandering travels that include India, Germany, France, Mexico, Italy, Morocco, and Japan, through which Less's colourful, exciting and jam packed personal past life is revealed and reflected upon. Less shifts from one chaotic, difficult and challenging scenario to another, jumping into adventure after adventure, encountering mishaps in his efforts to find love, fulfillment and happiness. Less is a flawed man, charming, self obsessed, so body conscious, and a fascinating central character. This is a short, brilliant and entertaining novel about identity, and although often uneven, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly appreciated the wonderful and enchanting prose. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews2,891 followers
December 25, 2018
If you scroll down lists of Pulitzer or Booker winners you'll find novels that are almost certainly destined to become classics mixed in with others that raise an eyebrow and are relatively obscure and almost certainly destined to remain so. Some years, if there was nothing better than the winner on offer, you can't help feeling it might have been better to withhold the prize. To maintain the integrity of the prize. That this won the Pulitzer gives more weight to the suspicion that for the first time in over a century America is struggling to produce a new generation of literary geniuses. Especially when you realise there were years when Bellow, Morrison, Roth and DeLillo were all competing for the prize. Who I wonder did Andrew Sean Greer have to beat to secure the prize?

My guess would be that Nabokov is a favourite of this author. His hero is very Pnin like, a hapless likeable blunderer. Early on, the observation is made that there must be something between mediocrity and genius. This is the grey area the novel's hero occupies (and, you might say, the novel's author). Philip Less is a novelist, not a failure as the blurb would have us believe - he's been translated into Italian and won a prize which surely elevates him above such a sweeping denigration. His main claim to fame though is the relationship he had with a famous poet. However, it's the less ostensibly exalted relationship he enjoyed afterwards that brings about his midlife crisis. When he hears this ex-partner is to marry he organises a series of worldwide commitments to get as far away as possible when the wedding takes place. (He's gay by the way.) Thus the novel is in part a travelogue, visiting Germany, Italy, France, Morocco and Japan. Early on, there are lots of really good observations and a good deal of vitality in the narrative drive but about half way through it ran out of gas for me. Neither did its less is more pun and authorial twist win me over. It's by no means bad but I'm almost certain this novel will eventually end up a blank in memory.
Profile Image for Philip.
496 reviews660 followers
June 6, 2018
4ish stars.

Such a clever book. For the first third or so, I felt like there was something missing. Was this really deserving of the Pulitzer? (PULL-it-sir, by the way, not PEW-lit-zer, as the characters and I learn). I couldn't quite put my finger on it... Too spoony? Too magniloquent (with the use of words such as peripateticism, quaalude, and magniloquent)? More like too insubstantial. Funny but fluffy. As Less's journey around the world continues, however, his story becomes fuller, deeper, wiser.

One can't help but wonder how much of this book is autobiographical. There is a meta aspect throughout as the words on the pages, as related by a mysterious narrator, so often mirror Less's own writing as a novelist and his reflections on his life, while satirizing the very literary world to which he belongs. A character in the book actually wins a Pulitzer (foreshadowing?) and another warns Less never to win an award, that doing so ruins authors. While the book is decidedly a comedy, Less can only (comically) see his life as a series of tragedies. He describes his most recent novel, rejected by his publisher, as being about "a middle-aged gay man walking around San Francisco. And, you know, his … his sorrows … ” to which a character replies “A white middle-aged American man walking around with his white middle-aged American sorrows? ... It’s a little hard to feel sorry for a guy like that." Yet here we are! A book about a white middle-aged American man's sorrows has won the Pulitzer. And if I can't quite feel sorry for Arthur Less, I can sure relate to him.

To me, it's a good reminder that it's okay to make fun of myself. That by doing so, I can actually process and acknowledge my tragedies in a more meaningful way. While perhaps not as significant as Less's fear of turning 50, my apprehension about turning 30 this year is real, let me tell you. What some might view as the pinnacle of a life, I can't help thinking of as "it's all downhill from here." I don't know if I'll even be able to enjoy my 30s when I keep thinking "I'm almost 30 which means I'm almost 40 which means my life is half over which means I'm basically dead." I'm already at the point in my life that, when it rains, instead of complaining that I can't go out and do anything, I think "this will be good for my lawn." 😑 Maybe, though, by seeing these thoughts written out like this I can smile, get over myself, and enjoy myself anyway. :)

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Fabian.
935 reviews1,527 followers
July 14, 2020
Officially debunks Forster's "Maurice" as having the happiest ending EVER for a gay love story; it contains its won contemporary form of genuine sweetness. I read this quite carefully, underlining countless passages, as it will be out first LGBTQBC (Book Club) selection here at 'The Drop,' Denver. I could not have chosen a better novel!!

Its optimism is its main attribute. It is very funny, too. The Single & Sad Gay Man is deconstructed and we are better humans (not to say, fortunate readers) for it--his sadness is his flag, but also, ultimately, a ruse. This one is destined to become a classic of 21st century LGBTQ+ literature. I enjoyed it immensely.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,114 reviews1,978 followers
August 21, 2018
What a fabulous, fantastic, gorgeous book! How on earth did something like this win something so serious as the Pulitzer? I am amazed.

I loved every beautifully written word. It was funny, it was clever, it was sad, it was quirky and it was totally addictive. How could you possibly not fall in love with Arthur Less? At first you conform with Arthur's opinion of himself but as the book progresses you start to realise that other people do not see him the way he sees himself.

The ending was just perfect. I read a library book which I have to take back. I will be buying myself my own copy. This is a book I need to keep on my shelf. Loved it.
Profile Image for Alison Smith.
736 reviews5 followers
August 15, 2017
I chose this book because the reviews implied it was hilarious. It was funny-ish, but not the gut-clenching laugh bomb I was hoping for. The story felt more like a surface-level, gay "Eat, Pray, Love" type of sojourn. And it was kind of depressing. Just not my thing, especially when I expected funny. : (
Profile Image for Michael.
657 reviews968 followers
May 3, 2019
Vividly written but lacking a strong sense of direction, Less follows the titular character around the globe, from Germany to Japan, as he tries to outrun loneliness and middle age. Arthur Less is a middling novelist approaching fifty whose longtime flame Freddy has just announced he’s become engaged to another man. Less and Freddy have spent nine years together, and the former’s refusal to commit to marriage has finally caught up with him. In order to avoid attending Freddy’s wedding, or processing that he’s to turn fifty while single, the novelist embarks upon an international, months-long odyssey, but his travels only intensify his sense of existential dread. As Less starts to realize he’ll be returning to an empty home, he reviews his life and wonders if he ever might fall in love again. The novel features stunning descriptions of cities like Paris, Berlin, and Kyoto, but Less, bland and privileged, is neither compelling nor sympathetic as a lead; the story lacks stakes, and a fairytale ending wraps everything up too neatly. Still, Greer’s talented and his other work seems promising.
Profile Image for Lisa.
971 reviews3,331 followers
December 26, 2018
LESS would have been MORE?

I know that is a cheap wordplay on the title and the pun-filled content, but the novel has put me in that silly state of mind, and I find myself running away from my own review out of sheer laziness and lack of focus.

A Pulitzer Prize winning novel of mediocre skill describing a mediocre writer who lived with a Pulitzer Prize winning genius before settling on another lover, who in turn is about to get married to someone else at the beginning of the story - that is the set up. Follows a random travelogue of clumsy and awkward encounters, until the princes complete their respective inner journeys and realise at the kitsch ending that they know what they want in life:

"LESS!" That is the pay off. And they lived (less) happily ever after.

I want more than that. I think I have Pulitzer allergy, as they invariably either bore me to death or strike me as outrageously antithetical to their own magniloquent blurbs.

If I had read it on a beach in France in July, it would have gone down quite well with a glass of cold white wine though. I will make sure to add seasonal considerations to my book picks from now on.

Or just accept that Pulitzers are traditionally meh in my reading universe.

Can't think of any nice ending to this anecdotal reflection without meaning, so I will just leave it in medias res. Read it, unLESS you have a substantial reading list of more interesting books on your pile. In that case, don't ...
Profile Image for R.K. Gold.
Author 13 books10.1k followers
November 30, 2020
For such a short book it took me a really long time to read. I wish I liked it more. I enjoyed the author’s sense of humor but the story itself was awkwardly paced and though I spent a majority of the book in Arthur’s head i didn’t feel much of anything towards him.

The last line of the book was great, it almost read like the author had that line in mind before he even started writing the book.

A story of a 50-year-old man finding himself through world travel and written in a humorous tone should have been a home run, especially given the prestigious award this book won, but I struggled to empathize with any character, though the plot was linear and easy to follow it never felt important and the “truth bomb” moments written through dialogue of wise characters fell flat.

Greer is clearly a talented author and deserves all his success. Im glad this book sparked so much joy with others but I couldn’t get into it.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,917 reviews2,351 followers
December 7, 2018
2.5 rounded up

I started trying to listen to this earlier this fall and couldn’t get into it. But then our book club picked it for our December read, so I had no choice but to start up with it again.

Less is a writer of mediocre talents. His latest book has been declined by his publisher. Less’ ex-boyfriend of nine years is getting married and Less has been invited to the wedding. Looking for a plausible reason to avoid going, he accepts a whole series of engagements - panels, awards, teaching assignments around the world. For a book that involves a lot of travel, this book moves incredibly slow. And time after time, the author sets us up to expect something, only to hand us an anticlimax. A lot of the book is spent with Less remembering either his first romance with Robert, an author of some renown, or his more recent relationship with Freddie, the one getting married.

Less is not a sympathetic character, at least in the beginning. He is horrified at the idea of aging. He is self absorbed. On the plus side, at least he is self aware. As the story progresses, he does begin to change and grow. By the end, he was almost sympathetic.

I’m thinking the blurb does the writer a disservice. Described as a satire, I expected more humor. There are minor chuckles, but they are few and far between. Some sections are deadly dull, others such as Germany and Morocco, are more tolerable.

The writing is very good and if I had been reading, not listening, I would have been highlighting quite a few phrases.

If I had to choose one word to describe my feelings about this book, it would be disappointed. I just expected more.

This won the Pulitzer Prize and almost all the GR reviews are strong. So I’m definitely in the minority. I’m thinking this might have been a better book to read than listen to it.

Profile Image for Dianne.
549 reviews882 followers
September 24, 2018
Update - as predicted, came back and changed my rating to a 5.

Completely endearing and moving portrait of a gay man in mid-life crisis. Forty-nine year old San Franciscan author Arthur Less has just been left by his lover of nine years and his latest book has been spurned by his publisher. His fiftieth birthday is fast approaching. Less receives a wedding invitation from his lover and is desperate to be somewhere else so he doesn't have to attend. What would any reasonable person do? Of course, book a trip around the world with stops in NYC, Mexico City, Turin, Berlin, Morocco, India and Japan. Less commences with his trip and his adventures, encounters and reminiscences about his past life and relationships make up the heart of this lovely book.

Everything about this book is gently handled - the humor, the characters, the foibles and insecurities that are Arthur Less. I loved Less in the same way that I loved Count Alexander Rostov in "A Gentleman in Moscow." The books and main characters are certainly different, but something about Less captured my heart in the same way the courtly Rostov did. Humanity and compassion shine from this novel.

Greer's writing is sublime and the narrator's tender, humorous and indulgent tone is what makes this book so charming and poignant. For some reason, I can't get my head around it that this won the Pulitzer Prize. It's so readable, so accessible, so perfectly lovely - aren't Pulitzer's usually dense and weighty tomes? Not always ("All The Light We Cannot See," for example) so don't let that scare you off.

A 4.5 for me. I may come back and give this a 5; I will certainly re-read it if only to spend more time with the charming and hapless Mr. Less.
Profile Image for Robin.
474 reviews2,491 followers
August 10, 2018
Arthur Less is about to turn 50 and has just received an invitation to a wedding he wants to avoid at all costs. It's the wedding of Freddy, a man who had been Arthur's lover for nine years. This book documents his world travels - a mishmash of appointments across the globe planned with the express purpose of avoiding the dreaded nuptials - during which, we hope, he will achieve a sort of wisdom about his life.

He's a writer, and his latest, unfinished book is about the sorrows of a middle aged gay guy in San Fransisco. Those who hear the premise are doubtful. "Who's going to feel sorry for a middle aged white guy?" they ask. "Even if he's gay?" he wants to know. "Even if he's gay," they answer.

And this is how I felt, often, reading this book. It was really hard to feel sorry for Arthur Less, a thrice published author known for his loving, lengthy relationship with a Pulitzer prize winning poet, a man who seems to have no problem attracting other men due to his innocent good looks, and who lives in relative financial stability. I sort of cringed when he ruminated ad nauseam about his 'mediocrity', incessantly comparing himself with others. What does he have to feel so bad about? He's a man of privilege, of a certain amount of success, who belongs to a network of intelligent, "it-crowd" friends who know and love him.

And yet. He's such a sad, sad guy.

Even though I was getting familiar, unpleasant flashbacks of Eat, Pray, Love while accompanying Less on his international adventures... I found myself quite touched by this story. I realised that many of us, "privileged" or not, are quite good at passing by our own happiness. We let it walk out the door, like Arthur Less did, and then we drone around in our little privileged existences, with our beautiful homes and credit card statements that boast travel, eating in nice restaurants, attending concerts and owning the latest gadget. And none of that privilege is a salve for the aching emptiness, the useless regret of a broken heart.

Because, as Less realises, "happiness is not bullshit." It's actually everything.

Andrew Sean Greer's Pulitzer Prize winning novel is funny - I found myself laughing out loud at parts, especially when Less is mangling the German language. It's also poignant in terms of relationships. Less is not the only person learning about love in this book, as evidenced by the story of Robert and his ex-wife, and the story of beautiful, devastated Zohra. But unlike many award winning literary novels, this one is romantic and ends on the high, sweet note of optimism. Makes you wonder why we all can't sing that hopeful song. Who knows, maybe we can.

“So many people will do. But once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.”
Profile Image for Seemita.
178 reviews1,554 followers
September 21, 2018
How long can you walk in another person's shoes without feeling the pinch of it? A few minutes? Some hours perhaps? Or a couple of days? Now, what if I tell you it doesn’t hurt to walk in those shoes? Will you choose to walk longer in them? Will you come to wear the skin a little tighter? Will you understand its soft corners a little better? Will you accept its rough edges a little easily?

In Arthur Less’, I did.

No, I am neither a failed author nor have I been in a relationship with a celebrity. Also, I haven’t been left in the lurch by a partner of nine years. Oh, and I haven't received the news of my ex getting married while pushing fifty, yet.

Still, Arthur Less felt like a kin.

When I met him, he was like his name – A royal promise, cut short before it had fully blossomed. As an author, as a partner, as a friend, he had scored below the green mark and had had been gifted a few pats for making earnest attempts. None of them were worth putting in a memoir of the recipient. His only benign claim to survival? His good nature. But good nature is just not good enough for this world, is it now? So, he decides to escape his suffocating surroundings for a motley group of global stops, perversely called literary events. And as he hops from Italy to France, Morocco to India, and beyond, I begin to see the world from his shoes and well, feel its pinch and caress first hand.

Arthur Less cracks all too often under emotional pressures; he also dons a toughie during a collective meltdown. He wears politeness to the point of irritation; he also conjures smiles around by his sheer goofiness. He travels to the other end of the world to escape his wounds; he also holds them tight like a moon does its scars. He is the cracked glass of multiple rebuttals and yet, he is the best friend for advice, love and otherwise.
He kisses—how do I explain it? Like someone in love. Like he has nothing to lose. Like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can use only the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you. There are some men who have never been kissed like that. There are some men who discover, after Arthur Less, that they never will be again.
Greer’s Less held a quiet strength that remained insulated from the attacks of his heartaches and failures. His propensity to love remained strangely endearing despite the abuse of its past caretakers. His worldview refused to fall on the pessimistic side, no matter the amount of mayhem shoved down his throat. His brook of hope continued to flow even as bursts of loneliness rocked its bed. In his shoes, I felt shining and cowering. And I felt like hugging him tight. I also felt like hugging Greer tight. You shall know why when you read the book.

Should you read it but? Well, as Less says,
“How can so many things become a bore by middle age — philosophy, radicalism, and other fast foods— but heartbreak keeps its sting?”
Read if you have ever known this sting.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
September 8, 2020
Once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.

This book made me so much more emotional than I expected.

Following Arthur Less, a writer down on his luck, as he travels around the country to avoid the wedding of his ex, who is also his one-time-rival Carlos’s nephew. Things do not go as planned. Ever. Add in a complex relationship with a literary-genius ex and the question of the past vs. the future.

The writing of this book is both incredibly humorous and incredibly real: it’s a book that is at once deeply funny and deeply sad. The shifts in tone make the book as a whole feel more honest, more real.

I also absolutely love the meta-commentary on Odysseus, personally. Arthur Less is a low-selling author of one famous novel: an Odyssey retelling. In Less’ Odyssey retelling, though, the lead leaves his lover for his wife at the end, because that is what Less believes about the world: that love does not work out. Less is in itself an Odyssey retelling in which Arthur is Odysseus, traveling the world .

He has never seen another gay man age past fifty, none except Robert. He met them all at forty or so but never saw them make it much beyond: they died of AIDS, that generation.

A major focus of this book is Less’ fear of aging, and more specifically aging past his desirability. It takes a long time to parse through his deeper fears: Less is afraid to be happy with Freddy because he feels he wasted his own life with Robert; he doesn’t want a younger man to be his person, because he was that younger man. He feels Robert was the love of his life, so how could he have another one.

The thing is, though, the age contrast between them wasn’t actually the problem in their relationship: it was that Robert was the genius, and Less was the non-genius.

It is our duty to show something beautiful from our world. The gay world. But in your books, you make the character suffer without reward. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were a republican.

I wrote about 90% of this review and then found out that audreyhheart on Tumblr had made a bunch of these same points, but I also loved this: that Freddy is the only character in the book who isn’t an artist and the only one who untangles Arthur’s self worth from his work. It's sort of a critique of the way in which artists are tied to what they produce: the talent, rather than the joy.
Twenty years of joy and support and friendship, that’s a success. Twenty years of anything with another person is a success. If a band stays together twenty years, it’s a miracle. If a comedy duo stays together twenty years, they’re a triumph. Is this night a failure because it will end in an hour? (s the sun a failure because it’s going to end in a billion years? No, it’s the fucking sun. Why does a marriage not count?

The thing is we live in a world where life sucks and people suck but we’re all able to come together to reach in the dark for love. And it’s so important to discuss the tragedy but it’s also important to discuss the romance, the small moments of human connection to be found in the ridiculous. Love is brilliant. Happiness isn’t bullshit. The thing is that it is so easy to give up on love, or happiness, because it does not feel like the right choice. But it is worth it, sometimes, to risk the expected for real happiness.

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Profile Image for Michael Ferro.
Author 2 books210 followers
December 21, 2018
Fantastically written, both witty and gut-bustlingly funny, and empathic in all the right ways, LESS is a very fine book. As advertised, it was a truly entertaining read and one that often showcased a real talent for emotional depth, while still maintaining that sly edge of humor—and this is no easy task, as combining the sad and funny is a true fine line.

As a writer (and an even less important one than the self-effacing main character, Arthur Less), I found it thoroughly enjoyable to read about the exploits of a mid-tier author circling the globe while dealing with "writerly problems." Mr. Greer knows how to spin all of these wacky experiences into gold for the common reader's benefit.

All that said, I do have to take issue with the novel's ending: it just wasn't for me. I don't want to give anything away, and I can see why this would be a very satisfying ending for a larger audience, but for my tastes, it was just a little too "neat." Perhaps that is the point of the whole novel, with Arthur Less truly representing the "lucky" person that he is, but at the same time, I felt a deep pang for a less tidy conclusion—I yearned for something messier, something anti-climactic, an ending that is a bit more representative of the world we live in. Then again, the world we live in is certainly not the world of Arthur Less, and a happy ending might just be what the world needs (though not something that I, personally, often want).

Regardless of that, LESS is a hell of a book. A great and breezy read for a pick-me-up that touches on some real emotional issues while not drowning the reader in dark, heavy clouds. There are other novels from 2018 that I would have chosen for the prestigious Pulitzer, but perhaps the committee decided a happy, light book about a "slice of life" was more fitting in a year of bad news... who knows. In the end, LESS is well-worth a read and I certainly don't want to take too much away from it.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books11.1k followers
January 31, 2019
Andrew Sean Greer is not merely a beautiful storyteller, he is a breathtaking stylist. I loved Arthur Less's journey -- his transformation -- and I savored his adventures (some of which are howlingly funny). But I was also deeply moved by the poignancy of his experiences. One moment, I would be chuckling, and the next I would be rereading a paragraph, devastated. This is an absolutely terrific novel. I'd say it should win a Pulitzer, but, of course, it already has.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,365 reviews784 followers
June 28, 2020
5★
“As for Less, Freddy was not even his type. Arthur Less had always fallen for older men; they were the real danger. Some kid who couldn’t even name the Beatles? A diversion; a pastime; a hobby.”


Arthur Less was a pale, intelligent, bespectacled schoolboy who grew up to be presentably tall, blond and moderately successful as an author. Attractive enough to appeal to plenty of men, particularly, Robert, a world-famous poet (of the “Russian River School”) who became his partner long enough for Arthur to become a minor celebrity through his association. Long after they separated, Arthur is still invited to many events and conferences, using his own novels as an excuse, but organisers really wanting the inside scoop on his friends.

He happens to be gay, and the satire about some of the gay community may be lost on me (I like to think not), but his situation is the same as most single 49-year-olds on the very eve of their 50th birthday. What have I done? What will I do? Will I be alone forever, and if so, what do I want? It’s not a “gay” novel – no graphic sex to thrill or annoy readers.

Arthur had a fair bit of success with his first novel, although the NY Times review dismissed him as a “magniloquent spoony”, but he’s between partners and a bit strapped for cash.

After Robert, he loved Freddy, who never fit Less’s idea of a life companion. He’s been measuring people up, and Freddy, though wonderful, is 15 years his junior, and Less has always loved older men. That, plus he knows that as a young man, Freddy is bound to attract and be attracted to other lovers. In fact, Freddy’s just announced he’s getting married . . . to Tom, whoever the heck Tom is, and Less is invited.

No way. Less feels heart-broken and wishes his publisher would hurry up.

“Less’s latest novel has been living with his publisher for over a month, as any modern couple lives together before a marriage, but surely his publisher will pop the question any day now. There will be champagne; there will be money.”

Meanwhile, how to escape? Well, he’s still a minor celebrity with a magic blue suit and a pile of invitations to participate in events around the world. He sorts out the ones who will provide airfare and accommodation, packs up his blue suit, and is off.

The suit. It’s ridiculous to quote so much about the suit, but it really is a thing of wonder. The cover of the book is perfect, right down to a polished loafer flying off as Less falls, and worries, and tries to write, with the fuchsia lining of his bright blue suit exposed. And the look on his face – always a bit lost.

You can skip the following long quotation, which I will sum up by saying, this is his suit of armor, the one that protects him from the slings and arrows, etc. The one with the magic cut, buttons, and colours.

“There is no Arthur Less without the suit. Bought on a whim, in that brief era of caprice three years ago when he threw caution (and money) to the wind and flew to Ho Chi Minh City to visit a friend on a work trip, searching for air conditioning in that humid, moped-plagued city, found himself in a tailor shop, ordering a suit. Drunk on car exhaust and sugarcane, he made a series of rash decisions, gave his home address, and by the next morning had forgotten all about it. Two weeks later, a package arrived in San Francisco. Perplexed, he opened it and pulled out a medium blue suit, lined in fuchsia, and sewn with his initials: APL. A rosewater smell from the box summoned, instantly a dictatorial woman with a tight bun, hectoring him with questions. The cut, the buttons, the pockets, the collar. But most of all: the blue. Chosen in haste from a wall of fabrics: not an ordinary blue. Peacock? Lapis? Nothing gets close. Medium but vivid, moderately lustrous, definitely bold. Somewhere between ultramarine and cyanide salts, between Vishnu and Amon, Israel and Greece, the logos of Pepsi and Ford. In a word: bright. He loved whatever self had chosen it and after that wore it constantly. Even Freddy approved: ‘You look like someone famous!’ And he does. Finally, at his advanced age, he has struck the right note. He looks good, and he looks like himself. Without it, somehow he does not. Without the suit, there is no Arthur Less.”

We’ve all got favourite clothes, but this suit is almost alive and the only family he’s got. We hear little about his family, and he’s working out how to live alone. But he really does need a guide. He’s never sure what to do next.

“Standing there like someone lost in Grand Central Station. . . experiences that quicksand sensation every traveller recognizes: Of course there is no one to greet me; why would anyone remember, and what am I supposed to do now?

I know it so well. He really is an innocent abroad. For as outrageous as his one-night stands and brief flings are to me, he is a gentleman and a gentle soul, just behaving the same way as all of his friends, who seem to put up with a lot of infidelities.

“In those days, Arthur Less was far from faithful. It was the way of things among the men they knew, and it was something he and Robert never spoke of. If on his errands he met a handsome man with a free apartment, Less might be willing to dally for half an hour before he came home. . . wonderful sex, and no talk afterward of I forgot to tell you . . . or Did you put the parking permit on the car?’

He’s not the world’s greatest lover, but he is special. What's not to love here? -

“He kisses—how do I explain it? Like someone in love. Like he has nothing to lose. Like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can use only the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you.”

He is a lovely fellow, really, and I began by wanting to adopt him, then by wanting him to wake up and stop making me cringe in embarrassment at the situations he puts himself in, such as thinking he speaks perfect German and accepting a lecturing job – in German! Very funny. And then I wanted to help him believe what his friend Lewis said about breaking up after 20 years with his partner, Clark. Nobody wanted Lewis and Clark to break up!

“ ‘But you broke up with him. something’s wrong. Something failed.’

‘No! No, Arthur, no, it’s the opposite! I’m saying it’s a success. Twenty years of joy and support and friendship, that’s a success. Twenty years of anything with another person is a success. If a band stays together twenty years, it’s a miracle. If a comedy duo stays together twenty years, they’re a triumph. Is this night a failure because it will end in an hour? Is the sun a failure because it’s going to end in a billion years? No, it’s the f**king sun. Why does a marriage not count? It isn’t in us, it isn’t in human beings, to be tied to one person forever. Siamese twins are a tragedy. Twenty years and one last happy road trip. And I thought, Well, that was nice. Let’s end on success.


Yes, let’s. Nice philosophy.

I was going to rate this a little lower until I started thinking about all the bits I’d noted and realised how fond I was of Arthur Less and how much I enjoyed his story. The narrator’s viewpoint seemed to change from a particular one to another omniscient third party, who knew every nuance of Arthur’s thoughts and life, which I found a little disconcerting, but in the end, I was happy with the resolution.

There's a great conversation/interview with him in Australia that you can listen to or download here. https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs...
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2,394 reviews7,263 followers
May 14, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“Just for the record: happiness is not bullshit.”

I picked up Less for one reason and one reason alone . . . . .

“You won?”

“It’s not Pew-lit-sir. It’s Pull-it-sir. Holy fuck, Arthur, I won.”


Occasionally I like to prove that I don’t live on porn and murder alone and venture out. The world of award winners has generally worked out pretty well for me and, although I’m not a zealot about it, I try to squeeze in a Pulitzer, Man Booker or Edgar Award winner a couple times a year.

The story here is about Arthur Less. Quickly approaching 50 with one former partner dying and another getting married, Arthur feels he has no choice but to do one thing . . . .



Except the staying in more part. No, on the contrary Arthur will be going out more. A lot more. And all over the world. From Paris to Berlin to Morocco, Arthur will become quite the globetrotter in order to avoid facing the facts that he’s not getting any younger . . . or more successful . . . or better at relationships.

Less has the hardware that proves unarguably that I read it wrong. I don’t even have a valid reason, either, because the “off the top of my head” excuse why I didn’t fall over myself loving this one is that I didn’t really relate to Arthur. Obviously I can’t truly relate to all of the meth manufacturers, moonshine runners, cannibals and serial killers who manage to make their way into my cold, dead heart either, so like I said – invalid argument. I guess my main problem with poor Arthur was . . . .

“You talk like a child. You look and act very young.” . . . “Maybe you never grew up.” Maybe he never did.

I guess there’s no place in my life for middle-aged manchildren. It still gets 3 Stars, though, because even I couldn’t eff up and read it wronger than that ; )
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