Less: When a Really Good Book Wins the Pulitzer

Originally published July 2018

I have a love/hate relationship with literary competitions.

I hate it when they pick a book that while good, is drudgery to read.

I love it when they pick a book that makes me swoon.

The Pulitzer peeps picked a good one last year.

Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less” is, in a word, amazing. I picked it up as we headed out on vacation — it had been on the bucket list for a few months, I knew it had a lot of good mojo behind it, and I wanted a sure thing to keep me entertained on a 18-hour trip out East. It did not disappoint. And if you haven’t read it yet, I implore you to fix that as soon as you can.

I’m not sure why this book struck such a chord, other than to guess that just as the protagonist, author Arthur Less, is facing his 50th birthday, I am too. And like Arthur, I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. Heading into the story, Less is fairly certain he wants to make the day come and go as quickly as possible. But it’s only one of Less’ troubles. With a successful novel under his belt, Less has been struggling to repeat, and his most recent work is not quite up to snuff. His longtime boyfriend is marrying another man, and he wants to be anywhere but on the North American continent when that happens.

So, thanks to Less’ anxieties, readers are treated to a global jaunt, during which Less stumbles in and out of some deliciously wicked scenarios. Set up to host a seminar about your first love’s writing and co-hosting it with that love’s wife. A drunken reading throwdown in the bowels of a German city. Riding a camel to someone else’s 50th. Dancing like an idiot in a discotheque. Enduring the machinations of a teenaged judging panel. Being told his book sucks, not because he’s a bad writer, but because he’s not authentically gay enough. Mexico, France, Italy, Morocco, Germany, India, Japan … the world is his, and our, oyster. And it’s all a ploy to help Arthur avoid the inevitable — turning 50 and finding himself alone, while his love marries another.

Yep — at the heart of this tale is a love story, and a pretty remarkable one. Love is love is love is love, and if you have even half a heart, yours will leap for Arthur. I love this fictional character so much it almost hurts that he isn’t real. Honest to goodness, this needs to be a movie. Maybe Clive Owen as Arthur? Chris Hemsworth as Freddy? Ian McKellen as Robert? I’m just not ready to be done with these characters yet.

“Less” was first released a year ago and is still picking up steam — do not miss it. A great read any time of the year, but definitely helps time fly by when you are stuck in a car with nowhere to go. Go on now. Go get it.

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