Less

Less

A Novel

Book - 2017
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Receiving an invitation to his ex-boyfriend's wedding, Arthur, a failed novelist on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, embarks on an international journey that finds him falling in love, risking his life, reinventing himself, and making connections with the past
Publisher: New York : A Lee Boudreaux Book, Little, Brown and Company, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316316132
9780316316125
0316316121
Characteristics: 263 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

January 29, 2019
Discussion facilitator: Alice Shelton. Co-facilitator: Beth LaDove.

For the adult who wants a smart, funny, sweet novel which also won the Pulitzer Prize


From the critics


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EljayJohnson
May 18, 2019

This is the coming-of-middle-age story of Arthur Less, middling novelist, "bad gay," and lovelorn single man. His one-true-love is marrying another after he pushed him away, so Less embarks on a world tour to miss the wedding and spend his 50th birthday alone. Less is gentle, smart, often hapless, and on a mission to become More. This dreamy, ruminative novel succeeds as a character study and a travelogue. The writing is lovely and sly and observant. And Less/Greer believe in the virtue of happiness and the possibility of love; balms in the stress of a reader's real life. My gratitude for the perfect ending.

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ssemegran
May 13, 2019

Like any curious writer, I occasionally read the award-winning books of the Pulitzer and Booker variety. I also watch award-winning movies (Oscars, Golden Globes, etc.) and listen to award-winning albums (Grammys, Pulitzer, et al.). I like to see what all the hub-bub is about and judge for myself. I really wanted to love Less by Andrew Sean Greer. It’s classified as humorous (awesome) literary (even better) fiction. That’s my wheelhouse (disclaimer: I also write humorous literary fiction). Unfortunately, I didn’t love it. Sad, I know.

Published book blurb for 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. How do you arrange to skip town? You accept them all.

This is the setup to how Arthur Less avoids suffering and humiliation. He escapes. And this is what Greer uses to setup a series of comedic situations to drop author Arthur Less into. Some are amusing. Arthur believes he’s fluent in German (he’s not) while staying in Germany. His translated books are brilliant overseas (they’re not. Maybe artfully translated). Comedic (?) foibles unfold. Arthur flies around the world, takes pills, hops in the sack(s) with various assistants and travel companions. He ruminates about past transgressions. Or does he since the book is narrated by someone else? This someone’s identity is the novel’s big reveal. Don’t worry; I won’t spoil it.

I found the character of Less to be annoying and unlikeable. I know there are readers that are attracted to this type of hot-mess, Peter Pan-esque, worried about aging / too vain for their own good character. I guess I'm not one of them. The narrator is fascinated with Arthur Less, infatuated even, the same way a pet owner is in love with their scrappy dog that pees on the rug while they claim it to be the cutest dog in the world. It’s not; it’s a dog that pees on the rug.

There is an airy, whimsical quality to Greer’s writing. It goes down like a fresh-baked croissant does with an espresso while sitting on the patio of a French bistro. But there is also a shallowness that is cloying. It’s lack of plot is unfortunate. And I kept thinking: What is so great about Arthur Less? More so, what is so great about Less? There is no accounting for the taste of the Pulitzer judges, I guess.

In the book, there is a passage where Arthur’s old flame, Robert, actually wins the Pulitzer Prize (just like Andrew Sean Greer did?!), then a mutual friend of theirs explains:

“Prizes aren’t love. Because people who never met you can’t love you. The slots for winners are already set, from here until Judgment Day. They know the kind of poet who’s going to win, and if you happen to fit the slot, then bully for you! It’s like fitting a hand-me-down suit. It’s luck, not love. Not that it isn’t nice to have luck... "

I guess this novel had the luck this time. It must have been awkward for Greer to receive the Pulitzer after writing such a passage. Right? Probably not. He won the prize anyway. Bully for him.

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mtnelligan
Apr 20, 2019

I loved his novel, Max Tivoli , so I was very disappointed, to say the least, with this Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Neither my wife nor I could get into it, and we both gave up after reading the first third. This is definitely not a Pulitzer Prize winning book.

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uncommonreader
Apr 19, 2019

The story of a middle-aged, gay, minor author who becomes somewhat self-aware at age 50. Somewhat humorous but very lightweight. This fantasy novel is perfectly described by its title - "Less" indeed.

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lawksreader
Apr 12, 2019

Meh. Fine example of fiction by and for privileged sophisticates who can congratulate themselves on how clever they are. Who cares?

l
lulu415
Apr 02, 2019

A Pulitzer? Really? This is a weak travelogue/romance novel, light summer reading at best. Inconceivable how it could have won such accolades. The main character is uninspired and uninspiring, making a series of sexual conquests in exotic places. Perhaps the author thought that repeating this dreary theme with a gay male protagonist would enliven it. Evidently the critics agreed, but I do not. Shallow, uninventive, predictable and ultimately unimportant. Less is less.

IndyPL_AdamT Mar 19, 2019

This book won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so I'm not sure how much I can add in terms of praise. However, I'd like to report that Less was an absolute joy to read. It is heartfelt and engaging. Also, in my opinion, it is the funniest book to win the Fiction Pulitzer since A Confederacy of Dunces.

JCLHelenH Mar 17, 2019

I'm not sure Less is Pulitzer-worthy. It fell pretty flat for me, especially compared to books like Sigrid Nunez' The Friend or Stray City by Chelsea Johnson.

LPL_SarahM Feb 17, 2019

MarveLESS! (I am so sorry.) This is the book that got me out of a months-long reading slump. I loved Greer's writing style and the tongue-in-cheekiness of Less. A book about a middle aged white guy and his problems who is told time and again that no one wants to hear about the problems of middle aged white guys. Funny, succinct, and romantic. WonderFULL! (Again, my apologies.)

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wormhead
Feb 12, 2019

This book made me [hetero female] think more about what is important in a relationship. Instead of getting miffed about him not cleaning the toilet and me always thanking him for every little housekeeping job he does, I take the advice in "Less" and just pick-up the toilet brush and think of all the great things my partner is and does. Life would be less without him.

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samrouthier
Jul 25, 2017

samrouthier thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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