DISCLAIMER: If you are homophobic, STAY AWAY!
“Just for the record: happiness is not bullshit.”
A gift of “Less”. After having delayed reading the book Less by Andrew Sean Greer by using the slow read method (if there is anything such) I finally got through the last page today. Procrastination, you see, is one of my vices. Nevertheless, I usually don’t procrastinate when it comes to writing reviews for the fear of missing out on life-changing lines that I’ve read and telling fellow readers about them. Following our protagonist Arthur Less on a trip around the world to escape his final loss in love, the story gives us something that is unexpected, coming of age at 50 by learning about love.
Freddy is getting married and Less couldn’t bear to attend it. In his haste for an escape, Less accepts every single invitation he has on his desk, even if it will lead him on a world tour and his “run away” from the wedding. Why is the poor Less running away by the way? Our Less is queer and Freddy was his 9 years long “casual” relationship, not to mention much younger than his almost half a century.
Less is a poor man, literally and figuratively. He has almost no money (his books aren’t being published and he is not a hotshot author) and he is lonely. Being a lonely gay man is not easy. You can’t mingle with the straights, you can’t mingle with the other gay men who are “good gay”.
Flying to New York to interview another author, then to Mexico to talk about his first love, the Pulitzer prize winner Robert, then to Turin for an awards ceremony, Germany for teaching at a university, a layover in Paris, birthday in Morrocco, a writers’ retreat in India and then, at last, a food review in Japan before he crosses the ocean again to reach his home in San Fransisco, Less thinks he has escaped his failure, in love and in life. But little does he know that this journey will only bring him surprises, of love, and of life.
When this book received the Pulitzer last year, which I didn’t know of until it started showing up on my Instagram feed, I decided to put it on my TBR. My secret Santa, who was kind enough to send me this on Christmas, made my life merrier in several ways, the foremost being reading a book that is out of my comfort zone. A queer hero and rather difficult prose along with delays had almost put me off after a couple of pages, but I persevered. And what I got was a life-changing/views-confirming result. To give an example of what I am saying, I would like to draw your attention to the following lines.
“You read poems about it, you hear stories about it, you hear Sicilians talk about being struck by lightning. We know there’s no love of your life. Love isn’t terrifying like that. It’s walking the fucking dog so the other one can sleep in, it’s doing taxes, it’s cleaning the bathroom without hard feelings. It’s having an ally in life. It’s not fire, it’s not lightning. It’s what she always had with me. Isn’t it? But what if she’s right, Arthur? What if the Sicilians are right? That it’s the earth-shattering thing she felt? Something I’ve never felt. Have you?”
Aren’t these lines simply beautiful? What is your opinion is love? Because in mine it is exactly the way it is told above, staying together, and cleaning the bathroom without hard feelings. Not to mention entering it when the other has forgotten to switch on the exhaust (yes, I and my husband are both guilty of it, so I am not gonna blame just him) And these lines are what I am talking about. In the middle of an ordinary book, the author gives us something that changes our lives, just like that.
So, getting back to the book, the writing, as I mentioned was difficult for me. Not because I spend more time reviewing Indian authors than reading foreign authors, but because there are references to local stuff in almost every alternate line which sort of becomes a let down since I don’t get the proper meaning and complete essence. Especially when the story’s trail is following the path of West to East and the description of cities the protagonist visits leaves you thinking of yourself as a fool for not visiting them before reading the book. The prose, however, is beautiful. The analogies are subtle, funny and out of the box, said in a manner of stating a fact. Seriousness packed in a joke box. These were my favorites. The characters come and go, nobody lasting long enough to be built in depth. Who lasts? Less.
I could empathize with Less. He comes out as a likable character. I would have said identify, but then it would make me come across as an arrogant straight woman so I’d rather stick with the former. I could feel so because I got the perspective of a female through Less’s eyes. The description of men, well, it didn’t get to me too much since I have a nice man only to myself, though it made me view them as a woman and not as a gay man. I wish I could have got the right perspective in this story. But then, stories are open to perception, aren’t they?
What I learned from this book is that love is love, age and gender are no bar. That it is okay to fail and feel miserable for once before regaining composure. That happiness will find a way only if we open up to it. And that happiness is not bullshit.
“To the boy with red toenails – Thank you for everything.”