ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



August 2019



Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
People who enjoy quality fiction, ridiculously good writing, and are looking for something a little different in their protagonist.

In a nutshell:
Writer Arthur Less’s ex-boyfriend is getting married. Arthur Less is about to turn 50. Instead of wallowing, Arthur Less decides to accept all the literary invites he’s received and spend the summer traveling the world.

Worth quoting:
“You and me, we’ve met geniuses. And we know we’re not like them, don’t we? What is it like to go on, knowing you are not a genius, knowing you are a mediocrity? I think it’s the worst kind of hell.”

Why I chose it:
My sister was reading this over the holidays a couple of years ago. We saw it in a bookstore and she said she really enjoyed it so I picked it up.

What a fun and unexpected novel. I’ve lately been enjoying media about older adults (Grace and Frankie is a favorite) because I just don’t think — outside of endless procedurals on CBS — we have enough stories about people who aren’t in their 20s and 30s. Occasionally some 40s sneak in there, but movies like The Wife, or books like Less, are interesting explorations of parts of life we don’t often see.

Arthur Less is an author who has one ex who is a well known and highly regarded genius poet and another who is about to get married. He’s not sure what’s going on with his latest book, and he’s not sure what’s going on in the rest of his life. So when the invitation to his ex’s wedding he instead decides to go to an awards ceremony in Italy, to teach a course in Germany, to go to a writer’s retreat in India. And he learns things about himself along the way, but not the things you think.

Yes, I realize that might sound like a gay male version of Eat Pray Love but I PROMISE you it is not. It’s so much more.

But this isn’t just a well-crafted, well-plotted book. It’s a book that also has gorgeous writing that isn’t pretentious. It isn’t a challenge to read, but instead an utter pleasure. I mean, look at this sentence fragment: ‘an almond croissant is soon in his hands, covering him in buttered confetti.’ That is GORGEOUS. Gorgeous. And now I want an almond croissant.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it. Knowing how it ends, I want to read it again.

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