Analysis

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 274

Andrew Sean Greer's recently published (2017) novel Less earned its author a Pulitzer Prize. The novel is at once a travel narrative, a satire, and a coming-of-age novel for its protagonist—a middle-aged homosexual writer. Arthur Less learns that his former lover, Freddy, is about to marry someone new. Less uses...

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Andrew Sean Greer's recently published (2017) novel Less earned its author a Pulitzer Prize. The novel is at once a travel narrative, a satire, and a coming-of-age novel for its protagonist—a middle-aged homosexual writer. Arthur Less learns that his former lover, Freddy, is about to marry someone new. Less uses this as an opportunity to travel alone to a plethora of countries, each of them holding open the prospect of some literary event (in New York), conference (in Mexico), award reception (in Italy), or teaching opportunity (in Berlin). The loss of his former lover, Freddy, also prompts Less to re-examine his former relationship with Robert, a prize-winning poet who inspired Arthur, but also left him with a perpetual feeling of inadequacy that endured after the relationship ended (and it is largely for this self-consciousness that the reader pities Arthur's character).

Insofar as Arthur Less is himself a little-known writer (whose publisher is threatening not to sponsor his current novel), Less is a satire on the literary industry. However, it also teaches its readers many more generic life lessons. First, it exhibits the human tendency to travel as a means of escapism, and the inevitable conclusion that it is fruitless to try to escape ourselves, try as we might. It is also a narrative that affords a degree of hope. Only after returning to his home in San Francisco does Arthur feel a sense of closure. He meets his former lover, Freddy (who has been the undisclosed narrator of the entire novel). The closure that Less finds, and the surprise ending with which both he and the reader meet, render the novel hopeful and inspiring.

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