Cover Image: Less Is Lost

Less Is Lost

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Member Reviews

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.
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“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.

Rating: Okay

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 

4 stars.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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This time Less decided to go on an all American tour. With recession and side effects of pandemic, globetrotting is getting a tiny bit expensive I guess! Less needs money. Less needs to confront his demons. Less needs to find his father and look him in the eye. Less needs to go back to his lover. More importantly Less needs to accept who he is.

Globetrotting Less was younger; his worries were more nearsighted. American roadtripping  Less is older; he finds himself doubting himself more and thinking about his losses more. Because at the end Less is Lost, and maybe he will find himself at the end of the road. 

I liked younger Less better for some reason. Maybe that resonated with me more due to his age and worries, but I have the feeling that I might understand him better in the coming years.
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*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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