Less by Andrew Sean Greer
My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

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How long can you walk in another person’s shoes without feeling the pinch of it? A few minutes? Some hours perhaps? Or a couple of days? Now, what if I tell you it doesn’t hurt to walk in those shoes? Will you choose to walk longer in them? Will you come to wear the skin a little tighter? Will you understand its soft corners a little better? Will you accept its rough edges a little easily?

In Arthur Less’, I did.

No, I am neither a failed author nor have I been in a relationship with a celebrity. Also, I haven’t been left in the lurch by a partner of nine years. Oh, and I haven’t received the news of my ex getting married while pushing fifty, yet. 

Still, Arthur Less felt like a kin.

When I met him, he was like his name – A royal promise, cut short before it had fully blossomed. As an author, as a partner, as a friend, he had scored below the green mark and had had been gifted a few pats for making earnest attempts. None of them were worth putting in a memoir of the recipient. His only benign claim to survival? His good nature. But good nature is just not good enough for this world, is it now? So, he decides to escape his suffocating surroundings for a motley group of global stops, perversely called literary events. And as he hops from Italy to France, Morocco to India, and beyond, I begin to see the world from his shoes and well, feel its pinch and caress first hand.

Arthur Less cracks all too often under emotional pressures; he also dons a toughie during a collective meltdown. He wears politeness to the point of irritation; he also conjures smiles around by his sheer goofiness. He travels to the other end of the world to escape his wounds; he also holds them tight like a moon does its scars. He is the cracked glass of multiple rebuttals and yet, he is the best friend for advice, love and otherwise.

He kisses—how do I explain it? Like someone in love. Like he has nothing to lose. Like someone who has just learned a foreign language and can use only the present tense and only the second person. Only now, only you. There are some men who have never been kissed like that. There are some men who discover, after Arthur Less, that they never will be again.

Greer’s Less held a quiet strength that remained insulated from the attacks of his heartaches and failures. His propensity to love remained strangely endearing despite the abuse of its past caretakers. His worldview refused to fall on the pessimistic side, no matter the amount of mayhem shoved down his throat. His brook of hope continued to flow even as bursts of loneliness rocked its bed. In his shoes, I felt shining and cowering. And I felt like hugging him tight. I also felt like hugging Greer tight. You shall know why when you read the book.

Should you read it but? Well, as Less says,

“How can so many things become a bore by middle age — philosophy, radicalism, and other fast foods— but heartbreak keeps its sting?”

Read if you have ever known this sting.

 

 

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