Less by Andrew Sean Greer is the type of book I bought because of the Bookstagram hype… and I’ll say it was pretty cool.
I had seen multiple reviews where some people just loved it and others thought it was alright. But it won the Pultizer prize, so I was intrigued as to what magic it be held.
Upon casually perusing it, I landed on a chapter called “Less Morocco” and it instantly had my attention, as being born in Morocco and remembering literally NOTHING (as I was 1 when we left), I really wanted to read more about my birth country.
So, with that said enjoy the brief summary and review.
Less is a story about a 49 year old failing author named Arthur Less who receives a wedding invitation from his ex-lover and is stuck between making a decision – as saying yes would make his going awkward and saying no look like defeat.
“How can so many things become a bore by middle age — philosophy, radicalism, and other fast foods — but heartbreak keeps its sting?”
He takes a third route, and ends up accepting all the invitations for different literary events around the world.
“So many people will do. But once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.”
Thus begins his trip across the globe before he turns 50, giving his life some meaning and worth. And so he almost falls in love with a married man in Paris, barely escapes death during a 4 week long seminar in Berlin but it doesn’t seem so bad.
“What is love, Arthur? What is it?” she asks him. “Is it the good dear thing I had with Janet for eight years? Is it the good dear thing? Or is it the lightning bolt? The destructive madness that hit my girl?”
Throughout the book we’re also given a glimpse into his past relationships and all the various points that led him to this middle life crisis he is in.
“Here, all this time, Less thought he was merely a bad writer. A bad lover, a bad friend, a bad son. Apparently the condition is worse; he is bad at being himself.”
Then we move onto a birthday party in the Sahara desert in Morocco where due to bad weather and food poisoning affecting half the party, he and the birthday girl end up celebrating in a Ski resort in Ifrane – also known as the Switzerland of Morocco.
“I’ve got a theory. Now, hear me out. It’s that our lives are half comedy and half tragedy. And for some people, it just works out that the first entire half of their lives is tragedy and then the second half is comedy.”
Before the final destination, he goes on a writer’s retreat in the South of India on the suggestion of his ex’s father, only to have written nothing and meeting an accident.
“You write what you are compelled to.”
Among all the chaos, booze, hookups, prizes, too many maybes, camel rides, custom made suits, and food tastings in Japan, he finally goes back home.
“It is, after all, almost a miracle they are here. Not because they’ve survived the booze, the hashish, the migraines. Not that at all. It’s that they’ve survived everything in life, humiliations and disappointments and heartaches and missed opportunities, bad dads and bad jobs…”
And life comes full circle in the shanty old place in San Francisco.
First things first, this isn’t a book! It is a movie.
The writing has these stops and breaks that make the transition of the scenes so abrupt but in a good way that it seems you’re watching a movie that goes back in time.
It is so witty and hilarious at some points, that it had me chuckling a lot. Also, I never knew I’d read about an almost fifty year gay author and find the story enthralling and amusing.
There were certain parts that just weren’t doing it for me, and I had to look up a few things and nuances to make sense of the context but overall it was a good read.
It felt more of a travelogue and my, oh my, the many countries it spans is amazing. France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, India, and Japan.
It gets your mind spinning but in a good way!
I really believe this book should be adapted into a movie, it has similar vibes to Eat, Pray, Love but not entirely. Comparing the two isn’t fruitful because the characters are seeking different things. It is the quest of finding that makes the two seem somewhat comparable.
Onto the basics:
- Rating: 3.0/5.0
- Favorite quote: “Boredom is the only real tragedy for a writer; everything else is material.”
- Reader level: Fairly easy
- Should you read: If you’re looking for a fun meaningful read.
- Would I read it again: I might.
Till next time,