Less Is Lost

by Andrew Sean Greer

Kirkus The notorious “middle-aged gay white novelist” Arthur Less is on the road again, this time stateside. It feels churlish to dislike this book, which deploys all the tropes and tricks and brings back many of the characters that won its predecessor, Less, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018. The narrator/puppet master, Freddy Pelu, whose identity was concealed until the end of the first book, has now spent a decade living in bliss with Less in San Francisco in a lovely home they call the Shack. Freddy gets back in the narration biz to tell the story of Less’ abrupt departure on a cross-country tour to raise desperately needed funds, as the estate of his old lover, the freshly dead poet Robert Brownburn, has presented him with a bill for 10 years of back rent for the Shack. And off he goes, this time through the American Southwest, South, and Middle Atlantic, driving a camper van named Rosina with a black pug named Dolly, affecting baseball caps and other Walmart-wear in hopes of appearing less Dutch. (“You from the Netherlands?” is one of the many ways people present their suspicion that he's gay.) As in Book 1, we get plenty of inside humor about all aspects of the writer’s life—prize committees, foundation grants, literary agents (Less’ is known as “Hello-I-have-Peter-Hunt-on-the-line-please-hold”), and writers with the same name. Yes, there is another Arthur Less, but unlike ours, who is shelved in Queer Authors, the other is shelved in Black Authors. Both are too small-time for General Fiction. Greer does sometimes write beautifully about life (a touching moment occurs when Less realizes he has to go through Robert’s death without Robert) and about fiction. “Robbery: friends mined for stories; lovers for sentiment; history for structure; family for secrets; small talk for sorrow; sorrow for comedy; comedy for gold.” “It's protagonists all the way down.” And, of novelists: “For are we not that fraction of old magic that remains?” Best case scenario, yes, but it's getting a little fractional this time. If you loved the first one, you might love this, though it is a bit less fresh and a tad slow. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Greer follows up his Pulitzer-winning Less with another delightful road story featuring middle-aged writer Arthur Less. This time, he’s traveling across the U.S., hoping to raise money to salvage his home with partner Freddy Pelu. Freddy, who narrates the story and has lived with Less for nine blissful months in San Francisco, has recently taken a teaching sabbatical in Maine, where Less plans to join him. But after the death of Less’s former lover, the poet Robert Brownburn, the estate hits him up for 10 years of back rent on Brownburn’s former house, where he now lives with Freddy. He assures Freddy he’ll make everything okay by paying it back with magazine articles and other literary gigs. Soon Less is off to do a profile of a famous sci-fi author, who has Less drive him and his pug in a camper van to Santa Fe, N.Mex., for an onstage interview. Along the way, Less accidentally floods a commune, sleeps in a tepee, and rides a donkey down a canyon. After a cascading series of humorous mishaps, Less wonders if Freddy will leave him. Though a bit overboard at times, Greer packs in plenty of humor and some nicely poignant moments. Fans will eat this up. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.)

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Library Journal In his latest, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Less reveals what his hapless if lovable protagonist is stumbling through next. Faced with a financial shortfall even as he grieves the death of an old lover, Less accepts a series of speaking engagements that send him careening cross-country in a rust-ridden van, with black pug Polly riding shotgun. Alas for his ego, he keeps getting mistaken for someone else; maybe growing that handlebar mustache wasn't wise.

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Kirkus The notorious middle-aged gay white novelist Arthur Less is on the road again, this time stateside.It feels churlish to dislike this book, which deploys all the tropes and tricks and brings back many of the characters that won its predecessor, Less, the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018. The narrator/puppet master, Freddy Pelu, whose identity was concealed until the end of the first book, has now spent a decade living in bliss with Less in San Francisco in a lovely home they call the Shack. Freddy gets back in the narration biz to tell the story of Less abrupt departure on a cross-country tour to raise desperately needed funds, as the estate of his old lover, the freshly dead poet Robert Brownburn, has presented him with a bill for 10 years of back rent for the Shack. And off he goes, this time through the American Southwest, South, and Middle Atlantic, driving a camper van named Rosina with a black pug named Dolly, affecting baseball caps and other Walmart-wear in hopes of appearing less Dutch. (You from the Netherlands? is one of the many ways people present their suspicion that he's gay.) As in Book 1, we get plenty of inside humor about all aspects of the writers lifeprize committees, foundation grants, literary agents (Less is known as Hello-I-have-Peter-Hunt-on-the-line-please-hold), and writers with the same name. Yes, there is another Arthur Less, but unlike ours, who is shelved in Queer Authors, the other is shelved in Black Authors. Both are too small-time for General Fiction. Greer does sometimes write beautifully about life (a touching moment occurs when Less realizes he has to go through Roberts death without Robert) and about fiction. Robbery: friends mined for stories; lovers for sentiment; history for structure; family for secrets; small talk for sorrow; sorrow for comedy; comedy for gold. It's protagonists all the way down. And, of novelists: For are we not that fraction of old magic that remains? Best case scenario, yes, but it's getting a little fractional this time.If you loved the first one, you might love this, though it is a bit less fresh and a tad slow. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list In Greer's eagerly awaited follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Less (2017), Arthur Less is now a “Minor American Novelist” with a mustache that no one notices and is happily living with his younger partner, Freddy Pelu, in San Francisco. However, with the death of an old lover, Less suddenly owes a monumental amount of rent, so he determinedly sets off on a series of paid literary gigs to ensure that they can keep their home. While in Less Arthur traveled around the world, this is a road novel mapped across the entire U.S. as he lives in a clapped-out but comfortable camper van he calls Rosina. As he bumbles from farce to farce across the nation, he learns about himself and America. The star is the narrator, Freddy, whose wry, loving perspective means Less’ quirky antics are always grounded in some seemingly fathomable logic. Full of riotously funny scenes—particularly around Less’ overconfidence in his German-speaking abilities—this is a worthy follow-up to the magnificent and much-lauded Less, and it is a joy to once again accompany Arthur on his travels.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Less lovers are waiting! Be prepared for the request onslaught.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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