Andrew Sean Greer is a very talented writer (I quite enjoyed his book The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells), so I was surprised about my dislike for the book Less. Perhaps this is a result of Greer writing the book in part to insult, belittle, maim, and somehow abuse its characters, but particularly its main character, Arthur Less.
Once I put the puzzle together, (Art is short for Arthur, Art Less), it became a little more straightforward as to what was going on, (a Dickensian literary trick, and I should have noticed it far sooner), but I still wasn’t pleased with a book that features a character that the author has created to disfigure. Oh sure, I read the book very quickly in an afternoon and it was a smooth read for the most part, (I liked what was on offer as to the idea of a world trip), but I just could not get over a book that bears an illustration of the main character falling on its cover (Mad Men iconography notwithstanding).
There was some relief to be found in the globe-hopping done by Less in Germany, France, Morocco, India and Japan, and yes, it is about a novelist that failed and there is some humour to be found in a celebration of a failure and the irony inherent in the contradiction, (and the meta-narrative of such). Also, the fact that Less is about to turn fifty and sees it as a life milestone is a great literary device and certainly there was some joy to be found in a straightforward presentation of a homosexual relationship, (quite a few of them, in fact). The “you can’t go home again” arc was exhilarating to read, and certainly I was invested in the book. I was hoping that Greer would be as invested as me, though, or maybe I should be just a little Less concerned with this reasoning.
Less was provided by Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased from your friendly independent bookseller or other fine bookstores.