I confess I selected this book from Netgalley without hesitation because of David Sedaris’ recommendation. I would follow that man anywhere. This is a second volume about a gay author Arthur Less, and I probably should have read the Pulitzer Prize-winning first story, Less, first. But I didn’t, and although it took me a while to catch up and catch on, I did end up appreciating the story. At first it seemed to be a book for insiders, filled with jokes and observations about the publishing world and gay culture, but gradually the humanity of Arthur Less began to drive the story — his need for love, his indecisiveness and his failings as well as his kindness and basic goodness.
And the richness of Greer’s writing made every page a delight. For example:
“ The moon is not out yet, but there are stars, and the world that these Delawareans probably take as ordinary or even ugly—the mounds of kelp and sea litter, the hard stonelike sand, the rocks spattered with the candle wax of bird droppings, the smell of rot and life, the waves breaking into applause, and everywhere, everywhere, unstoppable life hidden or crawling or swimming—is, to anybody else (to me), extraordinary, beautiful, exotic, strange. Somewhere in the water, the fish lie listening, arranged like magic daggers in the dark.”
The story has a few amusing twists to add to the enjoyment, but to me the universal search for love is what drove me to journey along with Arthur Less.
In my opinion, Less is Lost does not quite live up to Less in terms of stakes or attention grabbing scenes, but it still maintains its warmth and humor. We catch up with Arthur a couple years after the events of Less take place; we find his relationship with Freddie is strained and they have come into some money issues. I really loved having Freddie as our narrator and getting his interiority, I think it did help to raise the stakes a bit. This novel sees Arthur on a cross country road trip of the US in pursuit of earning enough money to pay off debts on his and Freddie's home, and the characters he meets along the way provide humor but not much conflict. Read it slowly, savor the prose, and take the time to appreciate every hilarious detail Greer has carefully included. One minute you’ll be laughing out loud and the next you’ll have a tear in your eye which, to me, is the best kind of book of all to read.
Less Is Lost was even better than the first Less.
Less needs money to purchase the home he's been living in for several years, based on the Will of his former lover. Which is to say that Less was not left the house outright but he can buy it.
So in order to raise the money Less embarks on a new book tour. However, things get delightedly confusing when Less thinks his estranged father has put up mpney for a play based on Less' book. It's a case of Less 'hearing' and 'assuming' what he'd like to hear, not reality.
All this makes for a delightful book.
Thank you Netgalley and Little, Brown and Co.
There were a range of emotions brought about by this book. Laughter and also deep and true thoughts on love and relationships.
A mediocre Less
Hm. Always a gamble when you read book 2 after a great book 1. I recently read Less and liked it a lot. This follow-up just didn’t do the trick. Oh, it was okay, but a disappointment for sure.
The story, once again, is about Arthur Less, a gay 50-year-old author, doing writer gigs in lots of different places. In the first book, he was in Europe. Here, he’s traveling across the U.S. This time, the story is told from the point of view of his long-time partner, Freddie, who is waiting for Less to return home.
-This author can write! His prose is impeccable, his style so cool. I love the way he puts sentences together.
-Beautifully absurd scenes! Give me absurd and I’m a happy camper. The writer plops you down into some wild places and it’s impossible not to be intrigued.
-Creative, funny metaphors.
-Greer is so adept at painting vivid pictures. I’m super impressed (like I was in the first book) that the author can come up with such imaginative people and settings, and describe them so well.
-Two hilarious scenes: one is a moose encounter; the other has to do with a strange noise on a plane.
-The boyfriend-at-home setup didn’t work for me. Didn’t get any feel for Less and boyfriend’s connection.
-Hm. Liked the Europe locales in the first book way more than the towns he went to in the U.S. in this book. Maybe it’s just that the places in the first book seemed more exotic?
-I don’t want just a picture, I want juice—action and words!
-Too clever for its own good. I felt like he was stretching it, trying to be so smart. It felt a little forced at times.
-Too many flashbacks. Sometimes you just want to stay in the here and now. But oh no, Less kept going back.
-Too many big words. I’m not studying for the SAT you know.
-Cut all the Homer and the mythology references. If you aren’t up on Greeks with long, unpronounceable names, you’ll probably feel as perturbed as I was. Too academic.
-Too many metaphors. Sure, they’re cool (the author really knows how to make entertaining comparisons), but enough already. They were fun in the first book but annoying here.
-Not funny enough. In the first book, yuks a-plenty; lots of good one-liners. Here, not so much. I can’t tell whether the author was less funny this time, or whether my being annoyed made me sit here all straight-faced. Probably a combination.
-Been there, done that. The novelty wore off. I really bought into all of Less’s travels in the first book, but it got old this time ‘round. I swear the travels were boring instead of exciting like in the first book.
-Slowed down halfway through, which made me want to be done with it already. I got bored.
-Felt zilch for Less. Again, completely opposite from how I felt with the first book.
-Characters were just caricatures. Joke-y, not real.
I felt like this story just comes down to Less bumping into a bunch of oddballs while on his cross-country odyssey. They wore weird clothes and did weird things. Funny at first, but I wanted more than pictures, like I said. I wanted something to make the book come alive.
Maybe I just read the two Less books too close together; maybe I needed a breather. Whatever the case, this book lands in 3-star land.
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
I was so excited for this book to come out because I LOVED the first Less so much! It did not disappoint!!
This is an unusual book that I at first found difficult to follow, but it segued into a wonderfully quirky story of love, loss and how to accept and be happy with who you are. The characters are unique and flamboyant; they make you laugh out loud. The story of the hero, Arthur Less, is told by his current lover. Less is anything if not philosophical and his musings on the people and places he encounters during his travels make you look at the world in a different way. In his interviews, the author relates that he tries to avoid stereotypes in describing places, instead relying on what he's actually observed. This makes Less's journey a very colorful one, especially since he is a type of Chevy Chase character (i.e. every mishap will befall him). The writing is very clever and makes you laugh out loud. Less ponders wonderful analogies, for example, comparing the situation of lovers trying to decide if they're going to break up to whether the individual 50 states ever have thoughts of breaking up with the America they wedded 246 years ago. This was a delightful tale and one that I didn't want to stop reading.
I enjoyed the first book more, though I think this book is "better". Greer is more developed as an author and does a great job capturing the emotions that surround a person's life.
I thought this sequel was actually better than the first book (for which he won the Pulitzer). Quite funny. Great, dimensional characters and scenes that are ridiculous, yet believable! Both entertaining and thought provoking.
Thanks to the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, for the free review copy.
I read Less last year and found it to be a uniquely beautiful and reflective novel about an aging gay writer traveling the world. As a native San Franciscan, I loved Greer's homage to Northern California which somehow came through even as the novel took its protagonist, Less, ever further from his home.
Less Is Lost is a worthy sequel, if a bit unfocused. This time, Less is on a trip across the American Southwest and South. Greer's descriptions of the American landscape are hauntingly beautiful and somehow capture the "core" of whatever he's describing. The journey across the US — and its eventual shocking and comical conclusion — was the best part of this book. However, I was a bit confused about what the main conflict or plot of the book was supposed to be. At varying times, it seems to be: a romantic conflict between Less and Freddy; a father-son conflict between Less and his father; a writerly crisis represented by Arthur Less and Arthur Less; a personal crisis related to Less' feelings for Freddy and his ex-partner Robert Brownburn; a metaphor for the state of America; and more. Additionally, some sections dragged and others went by far too fast, with big narrative jumps from scene to scene and state to state.
Still, it's not every day that you get a sequel to a Pulitzer Prize-winner. I'm interested to see how Less Is Lost will be perceived by critics and if it will be remembered by the general public.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advanced copy!
The writing is beautiful and there is great humor in this. 3.5 stars.
I really loved the melancholy of the first book and wish that was a bit more played up in this.
I really enjoyed this book and was excited when I saw that Andrew Sean Greer had written a sequel to Less. Like the first book we follow Arthur Less as he bumbles his way through a new adventure. Meeting new people and learning more about himself and his relationship with Freddie. The same humor that made me love the first book is also in this one and I think anyone who enjoyed Less will enjoy this heartfelt sequel.
“Because to love someone ridiculous is to understand something deep and true about the world. That up close it makes no sense.”
For Arthur Less, life is going surprisingly well: he is a moderately accomplished novelist in a steady relationship with his partner, Freddy Pelu. But nothing lasts: the death of an old lover and a sudden financial crisis has Less running away from his problems yet again as he accepts a series of literary gigs that send him on a zigzagging adventure across the US. Less roves across the “Mild Mild West,” through the South and to his mid-Atlantic birthplace, with an ever-changing posse of writerly characters and his trusty duo – a human-like black pug, Dolly, and a rusty camper van nicknamed Rosina. He grows a handlebar mustache, ditches his signature gray suit, and disguises himself in the bolero-and-cowboy-hat costume of a true “Unitedstatesian”... with varying levels of success, as he continues to be mistaken for either a Dutchman, the wrong writer, or, worst of all, a “bad gay.” We cannot, however, escape ourselves—even across deserts, bayous, and coastlines.
I named Less my book of the year in 2018 when I read it. I pre-ordered Less Is Lost back in April. I was really, really anticipating this book, so it might have fallen prey to the anticipation game. While it was great to revisit the characters, I wished for more. For me, the main struggle was with the narration. This novel is narrated by Freddie who constantly interrupts the action of the plot to offer his opinions. I did not find them witty. I found the narration to take me out of the story. Just let Arthur be Arthur! I have a feeling that there are some lovely nuggets in here, but I couldn’t sink into the story as much as I was hoping for this novel.
The story of love and loss, looking and finding, dependence and co-dependance all while traveling through new locations, meeting new people and getting into situations that would only happen to an incredibly smart and utterly clueless man like Arthur Less was a fun, easy and sometimes frustrating read, although quite enjoyable at the same time. It was befitting the character and his quirky personality. The only concern I had was around pacing and consistency with that but otherwise a great read.
As with LESS, this is an epic that, while spanning the miles, really spans more emotional distance than physical. In LESS IS LOST, we see Less struggling with the ends of things-- the life of his longtime lover, Robert; the approaching death of his father-- and the way to reckon with the continuation and joy of things still happening (his career, his relationship with Freddy). In short, this is a book about how to live, and Andrew Sean Greer rises to the challenge. I loved the humor and meta nature of this book-- books about writers sometimes fall flat, and this one doesn't. I could read a million Less books.
An excellent sequel. I really enjoyed revisiting these characters. A great fish out of water story. Can’t wait to see where the series goes next.
Thank you to Little, Brown and Company and NetGalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I loved Less -- one of my favorite reads ever. I loved is honesty, its raw tenderness, its style. And Less Is Lost has all of those things. I was honestly surprised by how willing I was to revisit these characters whose stories I had never considered to be anything other than finished. But it was delightful -- from Freddy's narration to Less's amble through the world to the people he meets along the way. I thought that it was perhaps not quite as moving as Less, but maybe that's part of the point. Life doesn't tie up in a neat bow and it doesn't always have to move you to tears to matter. So, I really enjoyed it. I'd only say that I wanted it to be longer, even. When you're on the open road away from all of your responsibilities, you can't help but want to stay there a little longer.
This felt like reading a continuation of Less without any change in plot. The humor is still there, the characters are still endearing, and Arthur Less is still wandering, just in a different location.
Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the ARC to read and review.
Andrew Sean Greer grips me every time. I loved revisiting the Less we know from the first book, with the added perspective of Freddy. This book is by turns hilarious, emotional, and downright bewildering. Everything about this book is eccentric in a way that I have only found in Greer’s work and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. Less is Loss is masterfully written and a beautiful story of a “bad gay’s” journey across America.
Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer was covered in my Fall Book Preview, where I share a curated list of the season’s hottest new titles including the books I’ve most enjoyed, the ones I’m most looking forward to reading, and the ones the industry is most excited about. I also recently had the pleasure to moderate a panel of "Book Club Favorites" with Andrew at the recent Bookmarks Festival in Winston Salem. What a fun discussion we had about Less is Lost!
Our Fall Book Preview event is exclusively for members of our MMD Book Club community and What Should I Read Next Patreon “Book Lover” supporters. Our communities also received a printable of all the picks with Less is Lost's publishing info and release date included.