Arthur Less is about to turn fifty. He is a tall, handsome, gay writer, and he has stumbled into most of the success he achieved in his life. His first novel received positive reviews and sold well, but the praise and popularity of each succeeding book decreased until he now cannot find a publisher for his latest work.
Andrew Sean Greer's "Less" is Arthur's story.
Everything has come easy for Arthur. He has had several long-term relationships, including an older Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (who left his wife to be with Arthur) and a much younger man who plans to marry someone else shortly after separating from Arthur. In between (and sometimes during) these relationships, handsome men pick him up and share their bed.
In part to avoid the wedding of his ex-lover, Arthur embarks on a journey around the world. He travels to New York City, Mexico, Italy, Germany, France, Morocco, India, and Japan.
Greer writes the novel mostly in the present tense, giving a sense of immediacy to the characters' thoughts and actions; but Greer switches to the past tense, relating the incidents that brought Less to his current situation and helping the reader understand why Less is the way that he is.
Greer tells Arthur Less's story with humor and a lighthearted style. For example, the organizer of a literary conference in Mexico brags about all the famous authors who were invited and almost attended the event. Later, Less secures a teaching position at a school in Germany by insisting that he is fluent in German. He is not, but he is convinced that he is and that is enough to get him by.
Arthur is a simple man, who does not entirely understand his life; but he strives for happiness as he knows how. This is what gets him through each day and year.
Even though Arthur wears his gayness openly and I am straight, I found myself identifying with him. I remember well the months approaching my fiftieth birthday. I had been through several long-term relationships following my divorce and I began to wonder if I would remain single forever. I was successful in my career, but I recognized the help others had given me and wondered for how much professional success I could claim credit.
Shortly after I finished reading this novel, I learned that Andrew Sean Greer had written a sequel. Now I want more of Less.