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: