Less ~ by Andrew Sean Greer

This had been tempting me since it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction getting rave reviews … so … I got it.   I don’t keep an active TBR shelf – I keep wish lists at Amazon and Audible and I buy as I read,  unless there is an Audible sale.  It works for me.



by Andrew Sean Greer
2017 / 273 pages
read by Robert Pekoff  8h 17m
rating: 8   / contemp lit – Pulitzer Prize in fiction 2018

Okay,  the novel Less is generally about a middle-age man who happens to be gay.  His older lover of nine plus years has broken up with him to marry someone else so Less is really at loose ends – struggling with his age and the memories in addition to his career.  He’s an author  – a mediocre author whose books get sold,  but without any truly appreciable notice.  (His ex- is an acclaimed poet.)  He was once called a “spooner” by a reviewer  (it means homosexual).  And now he’s going to be 50 years old  –  time for a serious midlife crisis.

The book is clever overall,  and quite funny,  but what can you do with this set-up – a professional gay man getting over a love affair at the age of 50 –  or being stuck in your career at the same age.   It’s the writing which is clever and maybe a couple of the situations – like taking rubber bands when he travels because he exercises that way.

Less is obsessed with being young and sexy and sensuous – but now he’s also border-line old – not terribly attractive anymore –  and although he’s quite smart, he has no self-confidence at all.  Actually,  he’s full of self-pity, remorse and fears..  But off he goes to various literary functions throughout the world –    to New York and Mexico and then there’s Italy, Berlin,  Paris,  Morocco,  India, and,  finally,  Japan.

There’s no real plot,  his life at this point is a series of little adventures,  a picaresque if you will,  not too unlike Don Quixote except instead of chasing windmills,  Less is chasing satisfaction somehow,  or love and youth or fame –  something to give meaning to his life –  he’s grieving his lost love and his career.   The man has lessons to learn.

There’s a very personable, unnamed and mostly invisible narrator telling us where Less is and what he’s doing as well as what all goes through the poor man’s  mind as he globe-trots to various literary functions to get away from his ex- partner’s wedding and the pain of breakup at age 50.   He bemoans his fate without love and he meets other men and women and so on –

Great metaphors abound,  just floating around like the wafting aromas of  pot,  wine and perfume.  It’s nicely written with a warm and lovable self-depricating hero and a gentle skewering of the literary community.  It’s basically just a fun novel with some insights for living which apply to all – especially the ending.  (I’m not sure it deserved the Pulitzer but it’s good.)

Review at Kenyon Review:

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3 Responses to Less ~ by Andrew Sean Greer

  1. Carmen says:

    I read a glowing review from a blogger friend and instantly put it on my wishlist. Then Amazon had it on sale; I scanned ratings and reviews, which were mixed, and decided not to buy it. It seems that you enjoyed it, even if not too much. I’m on the fence now. Should I read it? Still, my plate is full (reading-wise) until the end of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have no idea if you should read it or not. I have this uneasiness about reading GLBTQ books because I don’t even like reading sexual stuff from straight people. lol – That “fear” turned out to be kind of unnecessary because the whole book is about much more than that although – it’s not totally absent! If you appreciate original and beautifully written books with a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist and pretty well articulated themes I think you’d enjoy it. If you’re more plot oriented you’ll probably get impatient. (Does that help?) I bought it only because it was on sale at Audible and I did NOT buy the Kindle version to go with it. (I will if one of my groups read it, though.)


    • Carmen says:

      Yes, that helps! 🙂 The beautifully written, sympathetic protagonist bits, together with “outrageously funny” were the things that attracted my attention. It seems that you agree with that view, so maybe I’ll put it on my reading list for next year.

      Liked by 1 person

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