In Less by Andrew Sean Greer, people around Arthur Less tend to get sick. Why?

In Less by Andrew Sean Greer, people around Arthur Less tend to get sick because there's something about Less that makes them feel that way. As an aging has-been writer, Less positively exudes a sense of decline, which cannot help but have an adverse affect on those around him.

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It seems that everyone around Arthur Less, the eponymous protagonist of the story, gets sick. One says “seems” because it's almost certainly a comic exaggeration on the author's part to drive home some of his anti-hero's characteristics.

For Less, a has-been author well past his prime, is in a...

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It seems that everyone around Arthur Less, the eponymous protagonist of the story, gets sick. One says “seems” because it's almost certainly a comic exaggeration on the author's part to drive home some of his anti-hero's characteristics.

For Less, a has-been author well past his prime, is in a state of decline, both physically and professionally. What's more, he positively exudes a sense of decay, to such an extent that it spreads to those around him, making them feel ill.

Less's decline is further illustrated by certain humiliating incidents that drive home just how over-the-hill he's become as a writer. No one shows up to the “Evening with Arthur Less” at his class reunion; people ignore his insights when engaged in conversation with him; and, in one particularly poignant scene, Less is informed by his literary agent that his new book won't be published.

Despite all his numerous mishaps, however, Less remains a thoroughly likable character, someone we instinctively root for as he deals with the many challenges of middle-age. Although we can certainly laugh at his many mishaps, he inspires so much affection in the reader that we cannot help but wonder if the problem is with those around him rather than with Less himself.

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