|Last night I finished the book Less, penned by Andrew Sean Greer, which won the Pulitzer for best fiction in 2018. When the winner was announced about one month ago, none of us at Wellington had ever heard of it! I was rather put out because I wanted Jesmyn Ward to win for Sing Unburied Sing, for which she won her second National Book Award. A Gentleman in Moscow (Towles) was also a favorite. So who'd ever heard of Less? And why did it win?
How the Pulitzer is chosen is a mystery more complex than riddles posed by the Sphinx. So rather than ponder it too deeply, I read the book. I had no expectations. What I found was essentially an examination of midlife - but written as a comedy - clever and hilarious. The protagonist, Arthur Less, is an average writer known for his first book which was a run away bestseller. He is also gay - and Greer has fun with that fact. A colleague tells Less at one point that he is a "bad gay," as if this is a thing. Arthur Less has gone through a traumatic breakup and decides to accept invitations from around the world to speak, write and interview other authors. These are "B" invitations - but he is desperate to get away.
We meet writers who run the gamut in character - conceited, demoralized, over-eager, naive and mute. We travel to Japan and Morocco (as well as expected locations such as Paris.) Greer delights in punning Less' name - he refers to Lessian moods. He slips in clever references to other books and authors. Most importantly, he gives us Less, a quirky, self-conscious and talented man who has been stymied by his own lack of confidence and bad decisions.
It works out in the end. The book made me so happy that I wanted to share it with you.