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Review: Less

Review: Less

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Less, Andrew Sean Greer
Published July 18, 201, Lee Boudreaux Books
4 Stars

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can't say yes--it would be too awkward--and you can't say no--it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?
ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as "inspired, lyrical," "elegiac," "ingenious," as well as "too sappy by half," LESS shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.

I felt compelled to pick up this book after it won the Pulitzer Prize and found that I really enjoyed it, particularly the writing style. Greer has knack for finding the most perfectly, eloquently concise way to describe the very human conditions that seem to happen to us all, whether we're a gay man about to turn fifty, or a woman in her early thirties.

The story feels the tiniest bit like the Alchemist in the traveling and introspection, with a wee bit of Eat, Pray, Love in enjoying other cultures as a form os personal escape, but in all other ways it's a rather quirky exploration of identity and most of all: love.

Because I'm experiencing that rare struggle to find the right words to adequately convey how charmed I was by this bittersweet book, I'll share a few quotes that I really loved, and there were a great many that I found myself stopping to record.

"How can so many thing become a bore by middle age--philosophy, radicalism, and other fast foods-- but heartbreak keeps its sting?"

"So many people will do. But once you've actually been in love, you can't live with 'will do'; it's worse than living with yourself."

There's a scene that takes place in Germany where Less is teaching a college class and he has his students participate in cut and paste poetry projects with scissors and glue sticks, and back and forth translations, and such wonderfully fun things that results in a quote I really adore. When I was trying to decide what to major in during my senior year of high school, after just one semester of AP English I decided I didn't want to major in English, despite my great love of books, because the romance of it had disappeared into the work of the academia. 
"What a relief for their hardworking lives. Do they learn anything about literature? Doubtful. But they learn to love language again, something that has faded like sex in a long marriage. Because of this, they learn to love their teacher."

Overall, this was a book that despite its relatively short length, took me days to read because I found myself wanting to enjoy every sentence and to really let myself see the carefully constructed, vivid scenes as they had been described for me

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