By Andrew Sean Greer
Read Oct 2019
Essay updated 11/7/2019
This book is on the schedule for one of the book discussions this reader will be attending soon. This reader was initially disappointed that the book was going to another book about the travels of a middle aged writer having a mid-life crisis (having fairly recently read Bech the Book) with a gay writer this time. In this version the gay writer is trying to have a good excuse for not attending his last boyfriend’s wedding so he accepts a series of sometimes bizarre literary events/gigs in a variety of places around the world.
This reader was exasperated that this was a Pulitzer Prize winner—maybe for being a best seller vs having much literary value? After a few destinations (chapters), however, this reader began warming up to the protagonist and certainly to the author’s writing (which also carried Bech the Book). This reader stopped being annoyed and started really enjoying the humor, the witty and lyrical writing, and realized this character was going through some universal issues we all face as we “mature” (age!). Once the character gets real criticism from a friend about why his newest manuscript wasn’t going to make it– that no one wanted to read about a middle-aged white guy (even if gay) having a mid-life crisis- the character starts getting serious about writing and about really confronting from what he was running and would never be able to actually leave behind. This reader decided Less is a person much more worthy of praise for his achievements than he has previously realized. Although he’s accepted “gigs” that others may not have, there are so many offers that have allowed him to literally travel around the world essentially for free.
And the book has a happy ending, a somewhat rate occurrence in “serious” literature which this reader now agrees describes this book.
The book discussion was great and the participants left glad that Less wrote this book, offering to us a story of universal—that are experienced universally, not just in the heterosexual world. Give the book a read; be patient and enjoy the great writing. It eventually will win you over as it did all those in the discussion—either during the reading or as a result of the discussion. (Another great example of impact of discussing books with others….)