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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.
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.
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.
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.
Meh. Fine example of fiction by and for privileged sophisticates who can congratulate themselves on how clever they are. Who cares?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Disappointing. I couldn't manage to get interested in a globe-trotting, middle-aged gay going through a mid-life crisis.
While I wasn’t too sure in the beginning if I was going to stick with this title, I found this sort of love story, sort of fish out of water comedy fun in the end.
I read this book after it was recommended when i asked about authors similar to Christopher Moore. Being a gay man close to 50 the first little bit peaked my curiousity. By the end of the second chapter i found i was reading it now only because i had started it. The story was so so and the characters were half hazardly thrown together. The entire read was quick thankfully as it just felt like the story never really came together in a way that worked. This book is more like someone took all the elements of a great read and told a group of meth heads to put it together. I was extremely disappointed in this one. Possibly because i was expecting more of a christopher Moore style and humor i was left feeling let down. I may have to give it another chance in a few years and now knowing his style it will be better.
Found this on the Lucky shelf and grabbed it since I had kept seeing it on the best seller list. Can't say I understand why it's an award winner or a best seller. Finished it but didn't really like it. Skimmed parts. At least it was a fast read to move onto something else.
As someone who is working at living the motto Less is More I wanted to find the "more" in Less but it didn't happen. I felt the story was Eat, Pray, Love meets a gay man who is running away to avoid the loss of loosing the man he loved. I tried to be open-minded to the story but always felt Arthur Less just didn't get it! Could it be that's the comedy of the story that I took way too seriously? Then I have to say I didn't get it.
In short...while I actually found the writing of Less to be smart and sometimes very witty, the story just didn't engage me enough to stay with the book through to the end. That may be a result of my own naive shortcomings; I expected a story about a comedic 'adventure' rather than a coming of middle age story about lost love and career losses. The main character was fun to chuckle at but hard to feel sympathy for.
While reading, I would be engaged...but when I went away, I quickly forgot about it, and that was the test. (so I turned to a good crime novel instead) Which is too bad, because--full disclosure--I am not familiar with the author or his writing, and I thought it was interesting & uplifting to find a story centered solely around a middle age gay man.
I have no idea why this won a Pulitzer. Some reviewers said it was funny? I hesitated finishing it more than once because it was depressing. Every now and then there were clever turns of phrases, but not enough to save it. Not worth reading.
Not sure where the recommendation for this book came from but I couldn't finish it. I had doubts, it got a little better but I now can't or don't want to try and follow the logic behind this story to complete this book. Very disconnected! This guy, Less has a story but I can't read w/ this writing style.
I can't understand the interest in a self-absorbed, self-pitying, shallow-minded author-as-character. You could hang a "writer at work" sign on almost every line as Greer trips over himself to get from one clever scene to the next. It felt like reading the script for a mindless sitcom - not that I've ever wasted my time on that. There was little character development, more like a cardboard representation of a character, little sense of place or time, and minor characters seemed sketched with a painfully racist pen. Pulitzer prize??? What on earth has this country come to? Oh. That's right. I forgot.
Arthur Less is a failed author on the cusp of a midlife crisis of sorts. After receiving a wedding invite from an ex-lover and experiencing a subsequent mental fallout, Mr. Less soon finds himself on a globetrotting journey of self-actualization. Less is a lovable, self effacing, and amusing read that will brighten dark times. It is a treat, for sure, and worthy of its praise!
Very cleverly written (maybe a little too clever?) and imaginative. I loved some of the descriptions. However, I agree with some of the other reviewers - I found it difficult to engage with the characters. I finished it - it's an easy read and I've definitely read worse - but... meh.
Arthur Less is, unremarkable and I couldn't feel anything for him. He's not an unlike-able character but I see no reason to dig into his life. I think I was expecting a memoir feel with this book not someone looking in and dissecting his life. I couldn't emotionally connect to him or his situations. My favorite thing about him is his suit with the hot pink lining. I want one
I could not get through this. I gave up in Mexico. Not sure how I came across this but I was more than happy to put it down for good. Don't let the Pulitzer Prize fool ya.
"Less" is right. You'll leave this book wanting "more." If this wins a prestigious award, I'll eat my hat. What's that you say? It won the Pulitzer? Pass the salt.
"I have to watch I don't get arrogant."-Andrew Sean Greer on winning the Pulitzer.