Cover Image: Less Is Lost

Less Is Lost

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Member Reviews

*Special thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Pub date: September 20, 2022

In his follow up to the Pulitzer Prize winning Less, we’re back with the awkward and devastatingly human protagonist, Arthur Less. The writing is fantastic and well-paced. This time we’re reading from Freddie’s point of view and While not necessary, I would recommend reading Less before this so you can already be acquainted with this cast of characters. It’s dry, but there’s a lot of humor hidden throughout. I didn’t realize how much I liked Arthur Less until I started reading this 2nd novel and was so surprisingly pleased to be on another journey with him.
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This was a truly great follow up to an iconic novel. Less is Lost gives us more of the beloved character but we get the bonus if more Freddy Pelu as well. I truly believe the story isn't about Less being lost but about him realizing he's already been found.
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Less Is Lost is a fun sequel with much of the same shenanigans that we've come to expect from our protagonist. I enjoyed that we got more of a look into Less and Freddie's relationship. The new array of side characters were all unique.
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Honestly, I went into this wild and crazy journey across the U.S. with Arthur Less having only a vague memory of reading the first Less book though I recalled that I enjoyed it very much. That’s the problem with being a voracious reader. However, I found myself liking this second tale quite a lot, despite only hazily remembering what preceded it.

I enjoyed the occasional narration by Arthur’s partner, Freddy Pelu, who is all the way across the country when Arthur sets out on his journey from San Francisco, with the goal of earning the money needed to keep from losing his (their) home. 

Thus ensue many crazy happenings among the wild and unexpected characters he meets during his journey across the desert southwest and eastward. During his journey, Arthur Less wrestles with his inner demons and tries to make sense of his life as he bumbles about, one misunderstanding following another, to hilarious effect. 

I enjoyed the trip quite a lot, smiling the entire way. Many thanks to NetGalley, Little, Brown and Co. and the author for allowing me to read the eARC before publication, which happens on September 20, 2022. I highly recommend this crazy and entertaining sequel to Less.
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Because _Less is Lost_ follows the Pulitzer-prize winning novel _Less_, the first question might be, “Why a sequel?” Yes, Arthur Less is an adorable character, one who will attract readers to the second book. And yes, Andrew Sean Greer has created a world worthy of a second exploration. But the best answer perhaps is that the relationship between Arthur Less, the protagonist in both novels, and his lover, Freddy Pelu, is mostly unexplored in the first book and painted lovingly in the follow-up novel. Although the sequel follows an entertaining structure similar to Less, wherein the novelist Arthur Less goes on a road trip of sorts, complete with situational comedy, Less is Lost delights with a love story that explores simultaneously loving and admiring someone. This is a fantastically written book, a deceptively simple read with so much depth and complexity and insight woven throughout, illustrating that Greer is an American treasure.

Greer immediately plunges us into Arthur Less’s world. Readers familiar with the first book will feel like they have just put on a comfortable coat that had been stored all summer and feels like the perfect pleasure against the crisp winds of fall. Unfamiliar readers will be pulled in by the deft way Greer develops the narrative, and they won’t feel they are missing out for having not read the first book.

The narrator Freddy, who introduces himself immediately (“Readers, may I present: Me, Freddy Pelu”), often uses meta fictional addresses to the reader, as in “Reader, this is not so,” and “But reader, there are no coincidences on this journey.” These addresses occur more frequently at the start and in the end of the novel, functioning as a frame—a narrative device Freddy also comments on several times. Once, he obliquely mentions a teacher’s conference where he has left “a breakout session on narrative structure ” to “break out of my own narrative structure,” while the novel itself breaks out of its own narrative structure. Other times, Freddy’s narration seems like Greer joking with us through more meta fictional references to “novelists, with their love of structure and language and symmetry in novels,” which is apropos considering the structured and symmetrical titles for the book’s four parts are Sunset, Southwest, Southeast, and Sunrise. When Less becomes a beast of sorts after he starts writing a novel, Freddy comments that “I assumed, as many do, that the act itself would take place in some crucible of the soul and be no more of a nuisance than living near a typing school. Readers, this is not so.” In these brief scenes about working as a writer, it’s easy to forget Freddy isn’t the actual author but the creation of the author because Freddy is so well constructed as a literary device—and the substantial advice Greer relays through Freddy should be studied by any new writer.

Whereas the first book left Freddy on the periphery, Less is Lost builds his persona as one so deeply in love with Less that he’s dedicated time to write a book about him. Readers can intuit that having been together for over ten years, Freddy has heard all of the stories he’s relaying to us. He’s observed the mannerisms of his lover and is thus able to provide a veritable narrative, with meta fictional commentary from time to time, in addition to inspecting Less as a character.

At work in the novel is the playful approach with meta fiction and something not unlike mirroring. A gay author (Greer) writes about a gay writer (Freddy Pelu) who is writing about a gay writer (Arthur Less) who had been in a long relationship with a famous older gay poet (Robert Brownburn) from whom he learned about writing and being a working writer and who is now on a road trip at the behest of an elderly but very famous writer (H. H. H. Mandern). Freddy is now the younger man in a relationship with Less who has just turned 50 and is struggling with loss of loved ones and an uncertain career, including being mistaken for another Arthur Less who is a fiction author in a different genre. Throughout the novel, which mostly follows Less as he takes a road trip from San Francisco to Delaware in a van acquired by Mandern, Freddy is working on a project that is, no surprise, the book we are reading. Along the journey, Freddy shares writing advice learned from Less who learned from Brownburn…and so on. These reflections or echoes not only serve the plot, but they also develop the characters and their relationships to each other, like a sort of transference created in the reader wherein the attributes of one situation reverberate in another situation. 

The meta fictional commentary, particularly about writing craft, are worthy of deeper study. The commentaries on craft are gold for any young writer, even if the lessons come harshly, such as when Less is grieving and Brownburn says of the experience, “You have to write it down. You have to use it later. And that means you have to pay attention. I’m sorry this disaster has come for you. I love you. But pay attention. It won’t help now, I don’t know what will help now, but I promise it will help later. That’s all you need to do. Pay attention.”

While Less rejects the advice in the heat of the moment, Freddy has obviously paid attention at some later time when Less must have relayed the situation to him. Through descriptions of Less and his actions, Freddy’s narration provides multiple levels of plot and themes, particularly showing two people in love, honoring each other’s independence, finding intimacies, and discovering how to deeply care while both partners experience the ups and downs of human experience. Freddy’s narration offers a sophisticated examination of love mirrored (as he to Less, so as Less to Brownburn) and love complicated by loyalty and admiration for career, life experiences, and worldliness. As a fictional device, Freddy’s writing of the book about his lover shows how closely he’s paid attention, affectionately but also acceptingly, of his partner in all his flaws and quirks. When Less rants that no one “wants a middle-aged gay white novelist nobody’s ever heard of,” Freddy replies, “I do.” The plot doesn’t linger on these endearing moments, and many readers will see the relationship only as a backdrop rather than as a major force in the novel, but astute readers may find themselves choking up at the romance and appreciating what Greer has crafted, particularly because the characters defy the stereotypes of a gay relationship, especially in fiction.

In the first book, the narrative tone is sharply funny with poignant crumbs that slowly lead to the revelation of Freddy’s identity. By the end, we’re only beginning to see the relationship between Freddy and Less through hints of how Freddy could know enough about Less to narrate the story. Freddy clearly wasn’t with Arthur Less throughout most of the action, so how did he know any of the details? The sequel leaves no doubt, because it is clear that Less, like any partner in a long-term relationship, has told his stories repeatedly while Freddy listened. Sometimes, Freddy also tells readers (either directly or indirectly) what Less was experiencing in the moment. For example, when a man approaches Less, Freddy cannot give us more than a general description that the man is young, yet “how young, Less cannot tell you,” meaning Freddy cannot tell us either, but he adds that Less’s “guess is somewhere between conception and thirty.”

What Greer has accomplished here cannot be understated. Not only does his narrator Freddy provide the narrative for Less (our main story), he also provides a thinly veiled narrative of the narrative itself (how does Freddy know all this?) while slowly revealing the deep intimacy between the two, albeit fictional, writers. 

The book ends happily because, as Greer stated in an interview after the publication of Less, “It was important for me for Arthur as a queer character to be given a happy ending, because I’d long wanted to read that book and I couldn't find it. When I look around, I see lots of healthy, loving gay relationships and lots of joy.”

Greer, in Arthur Less and in Freddy Pelu, has given readers just that—lots of joy.
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I was charmed by the comfort of returning to Arthur Less's world, but as the novel progressed I was disenchanted. While I love a good surprise sequel I didn't enjoy this as much as I hoped. The story is charming and witty and delivers all the things one loved about Less, but I don't think there was any way to really deliver a fresh take this format. Part of Less's charm was the twist that Freddy was narrating the novel, going in to the same format without anything new or sharpened was a let down.
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Star rating: 4 ⭐️
Pages: 432 (book 2)
Genre: literary fiction

Read if you like:
▪️Traveling adventures 🚐
▪️Love stories 💙
▪️Books about books 📖
▪️Satirical writing 😏
▪️Family drama 👥
▪️Social commentary 🇺🇸

The first book in this series, Less (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), was one of my favorite books in 2020, and I am happy to say, I really enjoyed the second as well. It had all of the same elements that I loved the first time around: travel, humor, and love. I highly recommend you read the first book (if you haven’t already) and then return to the characters in this book when you’re ready for another round. Overall, another beautifully written book from Greer that I would recommend to all the literature fans out there! It’s out tomorrow (9/20)!

Similar: Less, Cat’s Cradle, When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Thank you @littlebrown for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Arthur Less is back. Although I truly appreciated what Greer did with the first book, I wasn't as enamored with Less as a character as a lot of readers were. I am probably someone who could have passed on reading this second book but for those who loved the first book, the second is a must read.
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I fell in love with Less when I picked it up earlier this year - the characters, the journey, the joy, and especially the prose, so I was a little nervous going into Less is Lost! But I'm happy to report that the story is just as charming, the writing still so perfect for the mood, and the journey still has all the feelings of one man's little epic poem of a life + love story. I loved that this felt like an extension of the initial story in Less, but wasn't just a re-hash of the same old; it pulled some new tricks that made it feel so much its own, gave it its own heart and messy human quest.
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It's been a few years since Less came out, and while I remember liking it a lot, I did need to pop by the book's Wikipedia page in order to remind myself what actually happened in it. That turned out to be a pretty useful side trip, because Less Is Lost picks up about a year after the original book and just keeps on rolling with very little explanation of the past.

When I finished this book, I had two main feelings: first, that the writing was gorgeous and humorous and biting, and second, that I wasn't entirely sure this was a sequel that needed to exist.

Look, there's a reason that Less won the Pulitzer, and a lot of the same strengths shine through here. Greer is extremely skilled at putting together a sentence that doesn't go at all where you expect it to but works incredibly well nonetheless. This book does an amazing job of balancing emotion with humor and wit, weaving together character growth with the goofy travel mishaps that also characterized the first book. 

But I couldn't help but wonder as I was reading if we really needed this book. I don't remember finishing Less and feeling a desperate need to return to his world, not even to check on him and make sure he was fine, which is essentially what this book explores (he isn't but also he is). And because it echoed so many of the things that made the first book great, it felt as though we were treading the same ground, except this time it was in a camper van across the US instead of chaotic journey across the world.

Even so, Less Is Lost is an enjoyable read, with plenty of moments that made me giggle right alongside those that made me ponder.

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3.75 stars

A great followup to Less, although I really recommend you read the earlier book first.

Arthur Less, who has to be one of the more haplessly charming novel characters ever, is back. This is his cross country adventure which is narrated by (absent) partner Freddy. 

Arthur and Freddy are being kicked out of his/their former home following the death of the owner and Arthur's old lover so he is frantically trying to take on literary jobs to come up with some cash. This oddball cycle of work includes accompanying an old author that he interviewed years ago to an appearance in Santa Fe and joining up with a dramatic society in the South that is staging one of his works on a road tour. Neither outing is as innocuous as it sounds. 

The author appearance comes with a madcap assortment of props: a pug named Dolly, an aging camper van named Rosina, and an accidental psychedelic experience in the desert with a group of counterculturists. The old author is mystical and mysterious.

The Southern road tour is even stranger. There is a strong screwball comedy element here which works well, but Less is appealing because he is so emotionally open. A further plot element features his search for the father who abandoned him as a child.

In an over the top ending, the different strands get more or less sorted. There are times when the poignancy and honesty of the writing just shine. Thanks to the author and to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I made sure to read Less first before reading Less is Lost and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND doing this. Both books are near perfection and I cannot recommend both enough. Less was a huge award winner and I hope the same is true for Less is Lost. This is a story to get lost in and to love.
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I loved Less, and this sequel manages to capture some of the charm but none of the magic of that book. The original surprised and delighted me -- and so many other readers -- while this one just seemed like more of the same, despite an excellent and intriguing set up. Still enjoyable to spend time with Less and Freddy but the tension that moved me quickly through Less never showed up here.
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Thanks to the publisher for early access to this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved Less, and though I don't remember much about the plot was excited to be able to read Less is Lost. This book was charming and laugh out loud funny. I was concerned (as another reviewer noted) that this would be a disappointment compared to the first volume but it was not! I particularly loved the passages translated from German.
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I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book.

To be honest, I was not a huge fan of 'Less' and did not need more of Arthur Less in my life. But, surprised as I was to hear that there was a sequel in the works, I was intrigued to see where the author took this character.
And even now that I've finished it, I'm still not sure what to think. My favorite parts of the book were at the start, before he begins is misadventures across America. Seeing this thoroughly sheltered and mediocre man try to deal with the loss of his ex and close friend Robert was very compelling to me. I also appreciated that -- unlike the first book -- it was clear that the author was in on the joke here. I appreciated seeing Less stop 'failing up' like he did throughout 'Less' and confront his privilege. Additionally, the writing was impeccable and there are some wonderful turns of phrase and scenes I will remember for a long time.
But, I still, after two books, cannot fathom why Freddy is with Arthur. It's not that Arthur is particularly bad or unworthy of love, but we never see any reason why they are together. For Freddy to be narrating these stories with so much affection (even at a distance), I need to believe they're connected in some way that has not been made clear. Also, the whole premise of this book is that Less goes on this tour to save their home, but a) in the end he ends up making no money and this question is left unresolved, and b) the tour ends up being entirely a case of mistaken identity, but it's not explained how or why his agent put him in this position. 
So, I have to sadly say that the book didn't hugely work for me. But, with the wonderful writing and a character many found to be endearing, I am sure this book will find a good audience, particularly among those who enjoy this sort of comedy-of-errors satire. 

My rating 7/10
I will post a review on my blog aimed at helping those who are likely to enjoy it more than I did before the publication date.
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Less was a surprise top-10 book of the year for me when I first read it in 2018 so I was delighted to learn a sequel was coming out. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC!

This novel reads a bit as Less: The Domestic Version; unlike the first book where Less travels around the globe in an attempt to distract himself from heartbreak, this story sees Less travelling across the US in an attempt to avoid a pending financial crisis. Freddy is once again the narrator (although we see more of him and his own experiences in this story, since there isn't the "unknown narrator" plot device from the first volume).

Overall this story was a delight to read-Greer's writing is as good as the first book, with a bit more laugh-out-loud humor in this one. Less is just an enjoyable character to spend time with. The emotional impact of this one didn't hit quite as hard; it was just another fun adventure with familiar characters, not that I think it particularly needed to be more than that. My one main criticism is probably because I re-read Less immediately before this one so it was very fresh in my mind, but there were some aspects that seemed as though the book was written for a new audience who hadn't read Less, but also didn't necessarily work for that audience, if that makes sense. There's a lot of recap at the beginning which you wouldn't need if you were familiar with the first book, but there's also some references that won't make any sense to you if you DIDN'T read the first book. It throws the pacing a bit (especially toward the beginning of the story) as though it's not sure how to tie itself into the first one-as the story progresses, the flow of the story smooths out.

If you enjoyed the first book or are looking for a lighthearted read, can absolutely recommend this one. For me it didn't live up to the emotional jolt of the first one, but still a quick and pleasurable read.
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"Less is Lost" by Andrew Sean Greer is the follow-up to the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning novel "Less". Written in the same sharp and satirical prose, the reader is greeted again by the delightful and at times awkward, Arthur Less.
Now in a long-term relationship with the younger Freddy Pelu from Greer's first novel, Less again finds himself adrift and unsure about his future following the death of an old partner and friend, and some unexpected financial woes that come along with it. 
In what will surely be known as "Lessian" fashion, "Less is Lost" follows Arthur Less on another trip, but this time a road trip across America as he tries to find a solution to his financial troubles, and work through the grief of the loss of his ex-partner and friend Robert. 
Get ready for awkward encounters and mishaps at a hot spring, philosophical and heartwarming talks after chance encounters, and surprisingly quite a few scenes that deal with racism in American and the privilege of being white and upper class in America.
Greer balances his trademark dry, satirical humour on our human existence and aging with poignant and philosophical insights on loss, aging, and what it means to be in love.
A fun and heartwarming follow-up for fans of "Less", this sequel can easily be read and enjoyed by someone who has not had the chance to read the first book.
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NOTE: I was given early access to the arc in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you NetGalley and Little Brown and Company. Publication: September 20, 2022.

LESS IS LOST is an intelligent, perceptive, and lighthearted glimpse into the middle age years of a San Francisco based writer. (Not unlike the author himself.) And further proof as to why Andrew Sean Greer won a Pulitzer Prize. I gave this one four stars on Goodreads.

LESS IS LOST is essentially a sequel to Greer's bestseller, LESS (2017), the story of Arthur Less, a fiftyish, marginally successful writer, who travels the world, full of insecurities and angst but also contemplating true love. LESS IS LOST picks up Less’s story several years later, taking him on a financially-motivated cross-country trip. But, this time, instead of Less as narrator, this book is written from the perspective of Less’s current partner, Freddy.

At the start of this novel, Freddy is secluded in Maine, attempting to write his own novel, while Less remains at their home in San Francisco, learning about the death of his former lover. That event triggers Less’s trip and I won’t say more about the plot which follows Less on that trip.

With Greer, it’s not the story or the action that holds my interest. As with LESS, it’s Greer’s distinctive voice. Here again is the quirky irreverence, self-deprecation, and clever humor that I associate with this author. I often find myself smiling as I read. Greer has a gift for assembling just the right words to point out the ridiculous, self-importance writers too often attach to themselves. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to delve into Less’s damaged but lovable psyche. He as human a character as you can find in any book, just as flawed as the rest of us.
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I could happily keep reading about Arthur Less's adventures. Less was an unexpected delight, and now Less is Lost continues his story. I'm not quite sure all the parts of the story fit together, mostly because until the last 20 pages, I did not realize what the book was trying to do...but I so love spending time with Less that it almost doesn't matter.

Voice and tone are everything here. Less can be a ridiculous figure, but Andrew Sean Greer is compassionate in sending him up. There are hints of pain and darkness in his past--this story spends a good deal of time hinting at what he went through as a fatherless gay teen living in the Northeast in the Reagan years--but he has a delightful resiliency, one the borders on naivete without quite crossing over.

He's a charming, delightful character in a charming book that almost comes together. A purposeful plot is almost besides the point, though, and Less is Lost is well worth the read.
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If you enjoyed the first book, you should love this one as well. 

Arthur Less is back. The first book saw Less running from his problems. This book shows Less still running, but this time, to solve his problems. In Less is Lost, we see Arthur traveling cross country, doing his best to make enough money to fix his financial issues that arose after the death of dear friend. This book seems to be told from the viewpoint of Freddy, though the reader is only reminded of that periodically. Instead, it's easy to forget about Freddy and just imagine that Arthur is telling us everything. 

Andrew Sean Greer has a way with words that just draws the reader in. Long chapters can be daunting, but they flew by. Greer writes in a way that creates movies in your head and it's just lovely.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for this ARC of Less is Lost.
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