Date Published: July 18, 2017
Book Author: Andrew Sean Greer
Summary reviewed by:
Bachelor of Arts (BA), University Of California, Santa Barbara 2019
With over 4 years of experience as an analyst. Terrence Timmons is committed to analyzing summaries without compromising on quality.
Is love elusive, or are we just too much in a rush to see it? "Less" takes you on a whimsical journey around the world—from San Francisco to Berlin, Morocco to India, France to Japan—to answer this very question. Arthur Less, a struggling writer on the cusp of 50, faces a predicament. His young ex-lover, Freddy, is getting married, and Arthur can't bear to attend the wedding. So he does the next logical thing: sets out on a serendipitous voyage as a way to escape the awkward confrontation. Armed with invitations to a patchwork of literary events, Less is less escaping love as he is stumbling upon it, in the most unexpected corners of the globe. Yet in his quixotic quest to avoid facing his past, he unwittingly journeys into himself—into the fears, regrets, and hopes that adorn the years behind him. In the hands of Andrew Sean Greer, the tale unfolds like a splendid patchwork quilt of humor, heartbreak, and subtle wisdom, each patch a vibrant hue of humanity.
Spoilers (click here to reveal spoilers)
As Arthur Less prances through cities and stumbles through love, he ends up in the Sahara Desert. It is here, in the midst of nothingness, that he learns the wedding has been called off. Yet, the journey's purpose had shifted; it was no longer about evasion but self-discovery. As Arthur returns to San Francisco, he finally faces his own manuscript—a novel about a gay man traveling the world, mirroring his own life. The novel wins him the Pulitzer Prize, as well as a reconnection with his old lover, Freddy. The closing sentiment is clear: sometimes the odyssey to evade love brings you right back to where you began, only richer—in experience and self-worth.
Arthur Less: A nearly 50-year-old, underrated novelist grappling with aging and love; chooses to travel instead of attending his ex’s wedding.
Values: Empathy, Curiosity — Invites the stray dog in Morocco into his room, despite being scolded by the hotel staff.
Freddy Pelu: Arthur’s young ex-lover; playful, full of life, and the catalyst for Arthur’s global escape.
Values: Spontaneity, Compassion — Sends Arthur a heartfelt letter even after their separation.
Robert Brownburn: Arthur’s long-time previous partner; an older, successful poet.
Values: Wisdom, Reserve — Offers Arthur poignant advice on love and life over the years.
Aging and Self-Acceptance: Arthur’s trip isn’t just across continents but also through the stages of life. As he turns 50, he finds a more accepting view of himself.
Love and Relationships: The book ponders what it means to love and be loved at different ages. Arthur’s varying relationships provide a nuanced look at love’s complexities.
The Journey of Self-Discovery: Avoiding the wedding isn’t just physical escapism; it’s a metaphysical journey into understanding oneself.
Humor as a Coping Mechanism: Arthur’s wit and humor are not just entertaining but also his armor against life’s disappointments.
The Universal in the Particular: Through the unique life of Arthur Less, the novel touches on universally relatable themes of love, aging, and identity.