Less by Andrew Sean Greer fulfills the category “Book with an Upside-Down Image on the Cover” for the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. The cover has our hero, Less, plummeting from the sky while writing and wearing his iconic suit. The novels won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2018. A satirical comedy about being a gay writer who is approaching an age milestone? Yes, please.
I loved this story. Arthur Less is everyone and no one, which is totally the point with a name like that. The book is told by a secret narrator who knows Less but refuses to tell us all (or their identity—until the end.) We follow Arthur as he desperately tries to avoid his ex-boyfriend and his fiftieth birthday by traveling around the world. Even though the story is told from the third person (sometimes omniscient) voice of the narrator, we get an intimate view of the man’s life—love, loss, laughter, and awkward situations.
Reading the novel was almost like a view into my own neuroses—a writer with an acute case of imposter syndrome looking ahead to fifty. I felt it hard. Now, not being a gay man with a famous past, I had to imagine some. But Arthur’s emotions were so vivid and real. I felt Arthur Less through and through.
He faced many life changes, some of which were not the “norm” for his age bracket. I relate to that too. Arthur worried he hadn’t lived thoroughly, didn’t enjoy his present life, and agonized over not being enough. (The last name was kinda a boop on the nose, but that’s fine. The book was so good. Who cares?) Less gets lost in his travels, mixed up, in the wrong bed, weird hotels, and odd situations. But he thrives. He lives through it all and comes out a better person. He gives me hope.
Looking toward fifty, I can feel that “Oh God, did I do enough with my life?” With two teens (yes, I’m an older mom), a struggling writing career, and financial stability thanks to my awesome husband (though I hate that I can’t support myself yet), I worry that I’m missing something. That if I had just done X, then life would be golden, or if I’d done Y, I’d be so much further ahead with parenting or writing or fitness. Watching Arthur gave me a laugh and a hope that it’s all going to work out in the end. Especially when we find our narrator and go “Oh, it was you all along.”
I give Less by Andrew Sean Greer Five Blue Suits.