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By Andrew Sean Greer

When Arthur Less receives a wedding invitation from his casual, much younger lover, Freddy Pelu, he realizes three things.

First, it would be humiliating to accept the invitation. Second, it would be a defeat to merely decline. Third, he might have been a little more attached to Freddy than he pretended.
He needs an envy-raising exit.
He does what any semi-famous writer whose celebrity is waning would do: he looks for all unexpired invitations that come with paid transportation, accommodations or a stipend and accepts. Then he RSVPs that he regrets he cannot attend the wedding as he will be abroad.
He is able to pull together “a cat’s cradle of junkets” that will take him around the world. His itinerary runs from San Francisco to New York; Mexico City to Italy; Germany to Paris; Paris to Morocco; India to Japan and then back home.
He will be an interviewer of a famous Japanese science fiction writer in one program; a speaker at a conference; a finalist for a literary award; do a reading and teach a workshop; do some sightseeing with a friend; participate in a writer’s retreat; and research a style of Japanese cuisine for a paying article.
Like Mark Twain’s innocent Americans traveling to the Holy Land in 1867, Less’s round-the-world-trip has its own stumbles. He has plenty of time to muse on loves long-gone and recent, paths not taken, aging, creativity and the fickle nature of fame.
In New York, his publisher rejects his latest manuscript. In Mexico, he learns at the last minute that the ex-wife of the famous poet Robert Brownburn who abandoned her for Less is sharing the stage with him.
In Morocco, everyone gets sick, leaving only one member of the group, Zohra, and Less to celebrate their consecutive birthdays in a ski chalet in the Sahara. The more Zohra drinks, the more she reveals: her partner Janet has suddenly found the love of her life and is leaving.
While Zohra claims to believe that love is like “having an ally in life,” she can’t help but ask Less what if “this earth-shattering thing that she [Janet] felt” does exist? “Something I’ve never felt. Have you?”
It snags a question that haunts Less on his travels: what is love? What do you have to sacrifice to have it? What did he lose when Freddy said “I do” to another man?
This is a lovely, subtle, funny book. His name says so much: Arthur was less than the famous Brownburn, whom he spent his early 20s into his 30s with; his second book was less than his first.
In a wonderful way, his trip around the world proves that Less is not a loser.  He hasn’t given up.  He is surviving life’s slings and arrows. Through his travels, he gains the insight to transform his manuscript from a middle-aged man’s elegy to youth to a celebration of life’s unexpected twists and turns. We, his readers, just know it’s going to be a winner.
LESS won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 after being named a New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post Top Ten Book in 2017, the year it was published.  Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles said of it, “I could not love LESS more.”

About the Author: Andrew Sean Greer (1970 – )

An identical twin, born to two scientists, Andrew Sean Greer grew up in suburban Maryland and always felt left out. So much so that when he, a Gentile, turned 13, he insisted that his parents throw him a “faux mitzvah” so he could have a party like all his friends.

He is the author of six novels, including THE STORY OF A MARRIAGE (2008), which the Washington Post described as “thoughtful, complex and exquisitely written,” and THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI, which the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune named as a Best Book of 2004.

THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI (2004) was inspired by the Bob Dylan song, “My Back Pages,” and tells the story of a man aging backwards.
His work has been recognized with the Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and the O Henry Award for short fiction. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Public Library.
He attended Brown University, where he studied with novelists Robert Coover and Edmund White and was commencement speaker. He has taught at Freie Universität Berlin and the Iowa Writers Workshop.
He divides his time between San Francisco and Italy.


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