Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230
Less is a 2017 novel by Andrew Sean Greer, for which the author won a Putlitzer Prize in 2018. The story is metafictional, as its protagonist, Arthur Less, is himself a writer, working on a novel called "Swift," also about a gay man. The background to the novel's plot is Arthur's love history with a younger man, Freddy, who is now engaged to be married. Faced with the prospect of attending Freddy's wedding, Arthur (now almost 50 years old) decides to accept instead a string of miscellaneous invitations to various literary events.
While the pretext for his travels are his professional development in the literary industry, his adventures bring comic relief and impart meaning to Less' life. He travels to New York, Paris, Italy, Berlin, India, Morocco, and Japan. In Italy, he is humbled to realize that the literary prize he stands to win is decided by a panel of high-school-age judges. In Berlin, he gives a galvanizing creative writing seminar, in which he himself is revived by imparting a love of words to his students. In Japan, he reconnects with a former (older) lover, Robert, who once inspired him, and has served as Less' sole inspiration for homosexual life after age 50.
The novel is, among other things, a metafictional reflection on growing old as homosexual man, and also a guide to finding meaning in a life devoted to the merciless literary industry.