Excuse me for interrupting, but I found the book I’ve been looking for, and it seems quite possible it’s the book you’re looking for too. It’s called Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I read it because the glowing front page review in the New York Times Book Review promised I would laugh out loud. The review also said it was well-written and big-hearted, but it was the promise of a good laugh that made me get in my car and drive straight to Parnassus. I need a laugh right about now.
It’s not that I expect any book to wipe current events from my mind, but a dash of levity would be a welcome relief. Also, it’s summer, and people are begging us for a book that won’t bum them out. I wanted to read it in hopes of being able to recommend it to you, and I do. I recommend it with my whole heart.
Arthur Less is a lower-mid-list novelist whose greatest claim to fame is that he was once the young lover of an older, genius poet. Now he’s almost 50, the famous poet has moved on, and he’s spent the last 10 years having a not-so-serious weekend relationship with a younger man. He realizes he should have committed (he loves him!) right about the time the young man decides to marry someone else. Arthur can’t be so petty as to refuse to go to the wedding, nor can he be brave enough to attend, so he decides to accept all the weird literary invitations that have stacked up on his desk in order to get out of town. As a writer I can attest to the fact that such invitations really do stack up. Arthur’s trip around the world is just an excuse to see our hero be gracious, lost, self-deprecating, and self-reliant in a myriad of exotic settings, reflecting on the past while trudging bravely into the future (single! 50!) wearing his one, beautiful blue suit.
If I started typing up all the sentences I liked in this book I would wind up typing out the entire book. Trust me, it’s funny. I was reading it on a plane and cracking up often enough to turn heads. It has a devilishly clever narrative structure and it’s also very tender, very dear. I finished it a week ago, and every night since I’ve gotten into bed and wished I still had it to read. I gave my copy of Less away to someone I met at a party an hour after I finished it, and now I have to buy another copy because I want to give it away to someone else. I’ll buy one more to keep for myself.
Maybe you’re fine. Maybe you don’t need a laugh. Maybe you can find solace in another presidential biography, in which case I say, good for you. The rest of us need Less.