This book makes a brobdingnagian attempt at being literature – while being about literature. It also feels like it is a persiflage of itself. Let me elaborate on that thought:
Arthur Less is a failing author starting to go full midlife crisis, and his current book is not going well with the publisher. As his agent tells him: These walk around town books, these days in the life stories, writers love them. But apparently they’re not all the rage.
Of course, Less is not a walk around the town, day in the life kind of book. Oh no. It’s a travel around the globe, few months in the life kind of book. Like I said, the brobdingnagian version.
The idea is interesting enough, the problem really is Arthur Less himself. That day in the life kind of books need a hero you can feel bad for, and Arthur offers to fill in that role.
But he does it too much. By trying to make him look like someone you could feel bad for, Andrew Greer turned him into someone with such a low self esteem that it’s hard to feel bad for him because you suspect he’s not feeling sad himself. He’s too busy being less than Less.
And it would have stayed that way, would things not have taken a turn for better. As Arthur Less realizes his latest manuscript is doomed to fail unless he rewrites his hero to be a fool, the reverse is true for Less – he’s gradually changing from fool to hero, and that journey is actually worth the time.
In the end, Arthur Less travels the world to end exactly at that point where he has started from. His situation might be unchanged, but Arthur isn’t. Along the way, he’s met people and he’s learned a lot about life, and we as the reader keep learning with him. There are actually some really nice quotes in this book, which I purposefully left out of this review because they should be consumed within their Lessian context.
Suffice to say, in the end Less is more. But I’ve struggled with the book multiple times, because it was kind of slow going for me in parts. It’s a 3.5 for me, rounded up to 4.