“Less” by Andrew Sean Greer— A Transformational Journey and a Transformational Read

Greer, Andrew Sean. “Less”, Lee Boudreaux, 2017.

A Transformational Journey and A Transformational Read

Amos Lassen

Arthur Less is a mid-list novelist who is nearing his 50th birthday and he knows that he needs to grow up. He also needs to get out in the world. His younger and very good looking ex-boyfriend, a poet, is about to get married and Arthur does not want to go to the wedding and in order not to do so, he accepts every literary invitation he receives, negotiates with his frequent flier miles and leaves San Francisco for a trip around the world. He goes to Mexico, Spain, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Vietnam, India, and Japan and as he travels, he finds love, despair, adventure, and misadventure. He comes to terms (by force) with the fact that he is getting older as well as with realities of life.

I found myself laughing on every page and it is rare to find a book that causes a reader to do that. Of course, I can only urge you to read this and tell you that you will be missing a wonderful experience if you do not. Having been reviewing for several years now, I feel safe in saying whether a book will be a hit or not so I have no trouble saying that “Less” will be one of the book to read in 2017 or in whatever year you decide to read it.

One of the biggest issues that gay men face today is that of being oneself. It was not that long ago that we could do so openly so trepidation is a part of the coming-out and being at home with oneself. As Arthur, Greer tells us that first it is important for us to be ourselves and once we are comfortable there is little that we cannot do. I know that I mentioned the humor of the story but let me also tell you that there are other emotions at play here because, after all, Arthur Less is human. We deal with so many emotions on a daily basis that it is hard to put these into prose although writer Greer has no trouble doing so.

Arthur Less cannot seem to control the adventures and the misadventures that he becomes involved in (and pulls us along). Because he is so filled with awkwardness, he makes us feel good. While I am sure it is the writer’s intention that we laugh with and at Less, sometimes the situations hit so close to home that we cannot help recognizing them. There is a phrase in the Hebrew bible that has become my motto, “there is nothing new under the sun” but there are new ways to talk about them and that is where Greer totally succeeds.

Quite basically this is a love story (wait a second, I have not mentioned that aspect of the novel and neither will I do so), it is also a sensitive look at friendship and the meaning of doing and living what you love. I feel like I have made a new friend in Andrew Greer even though we have never met and all I know about him is that he wrote this book. As a writer myself, I share the same anxieties as Arthur and as a naturally shy person (I hear my naysayers not agreeing with that), I have the same apprehension about visiting somewhere new and meeting new people even though I have had to do so several times in my life like when I moved to Boston without knowing anyone here.

Something else that we learn here is the importance of living the moment, something many of fail to do. When Greer tells you to do so in his beautiful prose, you cannot help but comply.

I have not yet mentioned the supporting characters. Each and everyone is a pleasure and they all have something important to say. I could not help being a bit nostalgic as I read and I was taken back to my coming out days in New Orleans and then the decision to chuck it all and move to Israel where I had to once again deal with coming out but in a different language and environment and years before Tel Aviv became the gay capital of the Middle East.

As I read, the more I began to love Arthur Less as I came to understand that here in this one character is a microcosm of the world we live in. Not many authors can create a character like him.

 

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